LAST WEEK, WHILE giving a commencement speech to New York University graduates, pop star Taylor Swift offered a timely bit of advice: “No matter how hard you try to avoid being cringe, you will look back on your life and cringe retrospectively. Cringe is unavoidable over a lifetime.” Swift is right. We live in inescapably cringe-y times. Why avoid them?
She’s not the only artist embracing cringe. Los Angeles-based writer K. Allado-McDowell’s new novel, Amor Cringe, is a love letter to cringe maximalism. Allado-McDowell set out to write the cringiest story possible and ended up creating an odd, surprisingly funny little book. The plot is as insubstantial as a tweet: Influencer tries to find God. The unnamed narrator’s life is steeped in the run-off of internet culture—they think too much about tweeting, take a gig as a DJ, and live in a “TikTok house” with a handful of rambunctious boys named Jaden, Jordice, Briden, and Rheagar. (Eventually, these lads move out and are replaced by “an English-accent guy” and a “Victorian-looking girl with huge breasts that seemed unreal, like they were the second breast implants anyone ever got.”) The narrator is determined to find something transcendent in the dingiest corners of LA. What could be more embarrassing?