Reviewing what he calls poptimism's "major text," Jason Guriel thinks Let’s Talk About Love—in which Carl Wilson undergoes a taste experiment and develops a grudging respect for Celine Dion's music—is too "overdetermined" to be trusted.
Even more predictable is a tendency to suddenly reverse course on an argument. Wilson is always doubling back, as if anticipating your objection; he’s always armed with yet another study, another counterargument. You shouldn’t enjoy that shot at Oprah Winfrey for long; several pages later, Wilson will call attention to his snobbiness, implicating your own. Nor should you entertain the thought that there’s something snobby in his anti-snobbery; Wilson will soon enough interview a fan who, well, has “a streak of snobbery in her anti-snobbery.” Nor should you be entirely shaken by his account of how sociology explains your taste; after burning up 10 pages on it, he confesses he only half-believes the stuff. The dead-ends and reversals wouldn’t be so annoying if one didn’t suspect he already had the destination in mind. In short, Wilson’s book could never have ended with the critic doubling down on his snobbery; the needs of his project demanded otherwise. A mere page after declaring, “Maybe if hating Celine Dion is wrong, I don’t want to be right,” he’s already wondering if he won’t find something “human” in Dion’s work after all. While a messily self-reflexive writer like David Foster Wallace truly wrestles with himself—with predilections, prejudices—Wilson bets on his fuzzy side, and throws the fight.