SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2021
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2021
I picked up No One is Talking about This because it had made the Booker shortlist and was a finalist for the Women’s Prize and the Center for Fiction First Novel. I hadn’t heard of the American author- Patricia Lockwood, I hadn’t read her poetry, I was completely unaware that she is considered “the poet laureate of Twitter”- I really didn’t know what to expect, just that it was causing quite a stir. What I got was a book that made me do a complete about face halfway through.
This is a novel about the internet - how we interact with it, how it connects and isolates us, entertains, horrifies, informs, trivialises and everything in-between. It is also about love, grief and being human.
The protagonist of Lockwoods’ two part novel is a female whose whole existence revolves around the internet, a woman with a worldwide online following. With the opening lines this anonymous narrator pulls the reader into her world, the virtual reality of the internet which she refers to as the portal. Text is formatted in chunks that you scroll through. Every click brings a new ad, a new meme, a new outrage, a new joke, a new way of speaking, thinking, looking, dressing, being… don’t look away, what will you miss? While I recognised the rabbit hole created, laughed and appreciated the sly wit, the sharp political jibes and flashes of beautiful prose, the incessant and inane chatter of the first 119 pages of this theatre of the absurd did see my interest flag. Granted I am quite sure there were important popular culture references that I completely missed. I grew up when you were either a good or a bad influence, at some time (probably while I was napping) that noun morphed into a profession and you are now an influencer. As a “non-Extremely Onliner” I would have given up and set this novel aside, but after all the hype I was sure there must be something else, some pivotal point that was going to bring it home for me....... There was, Part Two. A text from her mother “Something has gone wrong” and “how soon can you get here” changes everything.
The second part is more than a gear change, our narrator emerges from the portal stepping into a reality that demands emotional stamina, where it is the complexities of love, grief and joy that are to be navigated. I found this half of the book deeply moving and intelligent. I don’t know if the depth of emotion I felt, yes I cried, was because the poignancy of the writing stood in such sharp relief from the, at times, trying too hard to be funny first half of the book or if it just felt more analog. Probably a bit of both.
No One is Talking about This won’t be for everyone, but I do understand why this inventive text is making so many shortlists. I am pleased I stayed the distance and I am really looking forward to discussing it with our readers because this is one that will polarize, you will either love it or hate it.
'A literary star' Hadley Freeman, Guardian
'An intellectual and emotional rollercoaster' Daily Mail
'I can't remember the last time I laughed so much reading a book' David Sedaris
'It moved me to tears' Elizabeth Day
'Patricia Lockwood is a completely singular talent' Sally Rooney
'Takes us on a complex journey' Financial Times
'A formidably gifted writer' New York Times Book Review
This is a story about a life lived in two halves.
It's about what happens when real life collides with the world accessed through a screen.
It's about where we go when existential threats loom and high-stakes reality claims us back.
It's about living in world that contains both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
Irreverent and sincere, poignant and delightfully profane, No One Is Talking About This is a meditation on love, language and human connection from one of the most original voices of our time.