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As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms "the portal," where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thought As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms "the portal," where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats--from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness--begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal's void. An avalanche of images, details, and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. "Are we in hell?" the people of the portal ask themselves. "Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?" Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: "Something has gone wrong," and "How soon can you get here?" As real life and its stakes collide with the increasingly absurd antics of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary. Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.


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As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms "the portal," where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thought As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms "the portal," where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats--from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness--begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal's void. An avalanche of images, details, and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. "Are we in hell?" the people of the portal ask themselves. "Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?" Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: "Something has gone wrong," and "How soon can you get here?" As real life and its stakes collide with the increasingly absurd antics of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary. Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.

30 review for No One Is Talking About This

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    I understand what this novel was trying to do and it is witty and at times genuinely moving. It does feel like two novels in one. The first is a novel about what it means to be Very Online and if you aren’t, I am not sure that it will make sense. The second is about a a family managing a terrible tragedy and how it magnified what really matters and does not matter. I really enjoyed this but I did wish the two novels felt more like one. Regardless, Lockwood is a phenomenal writer who is a keen ob I understand what this novel was trying to do and it is witty and at times genuinely moving. It does feel like two novels in one. The first is a novel about what it means to be Very Online and if you aren’t, I am not sure that it will make sense. The second is about a a family managing a terrible tragedy and how it magnified what really matters and does not matter. I really enjoyed this but I did wish the two novels felt more like one. Regardless, Lockwood is a phenomenal writer who is a keen observer of the strangeness of online culture and the fragility of the human heart.

  2. 5 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘A mind was merely something trying to make it in the world.’ Doomscrolling, thirst traps, subtweets, chonky bois, stans, sliding into DMs, shouting YAS or saying a MOOD tbh… the landscape of social media has forever altered our lexicon, our politics, our social interactions and more. It’s a rapidly shifting world with a new main character everyday (the goal of twitter, of course, is to remain as active as possible but never BE the main character) and can be an utter minefield of social anxieties ‘A mind was merely something trying to make it in the world.’ Doomscrolling, thirst traps, subtweets, chonky bois, stans, sliding into DMs, shouting YAS or saying a MOOD tbh… the landscape of social media has forever altered our lexicon, our politics, our social interactions and more. It’s a rapidly shifting world with a new main character everyday (the goal of twitter, of course, is to remain as active as possible but never BE the main character) and can be an utter minefield of social anxieties and attacks. And we love it. But how has this altered the way we engage with the world around us, especially in wake of tragedy? There are few people better equipped to tell a narrative of being Extremely Online than the Poet Laureate of Twitter herself, Patricia Lockwood. Author of the much acclaimed 2017 memoir Priestdaddy, Patricia @TriciaLockwood Lockwood has made a smash through social media, her poem Rape Joke having been a viral hit and even meeting her now-husband in a poetry chatroom. No One is Talking About This plays close to autofiction as it follows a twitter-celebrity as she speaks at social media conferences around the world and generally shitposts and laughs her way through the online community termed here as The Portal. The book takes an abrupt turn when, having existed so long in the hellscape of twitter she isn’t sure how to interact as a normal human anymore and tragedy strikes her family. From laugh-out-loud-until-you-cry funny to actually sobbing, this book is an emotional rollercoaster through our modern condition brought to life through Lockwood’s satirical and cutting observations. ‘It was a mistake to believe that other people were not living as deeply as you were. Besides, you were not even living that deeply.’ This is the great Twitter novel we’ve always assumed someone would write, and as someone who is shamelessly very online myself I definitely felt this novel quite profoundly. Being both in on the jokes and the butt of the jokes, I suspect anyone who has ever paused to reflect on the nature of social media and the bizarre psychology of twitter (or really any social media) will get a lot from Lockwood’s musings. Lockwood preserves the vernacular of the last few years and this book is overflowing with references to viral tweets and passing social media quirks (LitHub has brilliantly annotated all the memes and references here). ‘It was so tiring to have to catch each new virus,’ Lockwood writes about keeping on pace with social media, ‘produce the perfect sneaze of it [sic], and then mutate it into something new.’. Anyone who has clamoured to reproduce a new meme or spent an afternoon perfecting the perfect parody of Williams’ This Is Just to Say will feel seen, as they say. The humor here is crude but on point, with jokes about parents using horny emojis without knowing what they mean, kinks, perverted viral commercials, etc. The book fairly well reproduces a twitter feed in style, with staccato sentences and rapid fire thoughts spaced out on the page. While Lockwood credits David Markson for much of the inspiration, she admits the layout was for this exact purpose in an interview with the New Yorker: The empty space is interrupted by these brief bursts of communal consciousness. The movement among these small explosions is what provides the plot, the ambulation. The arrangement and the presentation are what make it fictional, as the selves we present in the portal are fictional.’ The communal consciousness is what Lockwood seeks to unpack. This all feels particularly poignant as the book is set mid-Trump administration (referred to humorously as ‘the dictator’ in the book) when online interactions turned up the heat even as we realized so much of the behavior everyone rallied against was formed and perpetuated through social media.’Every day we were seeing new evidence that suggested it was the portal that had allowed the dictator to rise to power. This was humiliating. It would be like discovering that the Vietnam War was secretly caused by ham radios, or that Napoleon was operating exclusively on the advice of a parrot named Brian’ We live in a world where ‘ A person might join a site to look at pictures of her nephew and five years later believe in a flat earth,’ where I have relatives that followed me to see photos of my children and then posted on my graduation from college post that I should be lined up with my classmates and shot because college was ‘liberal brainwashing’. SOCIAL MEDIA IS FUN GUYS I SWEAR THANKS UNCLE JIM! Lockwood examines the ways our interactions with people have shifted, as well as the way we receive information and what responsibility we have to what we put out into the world. He comments, for example, on how it was likely she saw Heather Heyer’s death at Charlottesville even before Heather’s own mother would have been notified. We built this technology and corporations are making way too much money with it for there to be any chance we will turn it off, so buckle up, humanity, here we go. However, at the same time it is a really useful and beautiful tool to interact with people around the globe, share ideas, share love, spread awareness, help people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get out or around interact, etc, so it’s all a very double-edged sword so to speak. I’m thankful for a platform such as this to share and discuss books with all of you, and I really value many of the friendships I’ve made on here and other platforms and cool opportunities I wouldn’t have had without it. So thanks, social media. @poe_a_tree is me if you want to follow, I wouldn't. For the first half of the book we follow the musings of the narrator who became famous for the simple tweet ‘can a dog be twins? (‘is this your contribution to society?’ someone aggresses on her at a conference holding up a printout of that tweet), which parodies Lockwood's own viral hit 'So is Paris any good or not' on twitter. She laughs at herself and the way she turns everything into a joke, shouting ‘shoot it into my veins’ at funny posts and wondering why is she like this. Then comes part two and the floor drops out. A quick text from her mother asking her to come home cues up a really tragic narrative switch to her sister’s unborn baby being diagnosed with Proteus Syndrome, a ‘one-in-a-billion diagnoses’ best known for being the condition of the ’Elephant Man’, Joseph Merrick. This section is all the more tragic knowing it is based on Lockwood and her sister’s real experiences. Heads up, this book is going to make you cry and the way the two sections don’t seem to quite blend together is an excellent example of the way ‘real’ life and online don’t quite blend either (Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler is another recent book to tackle this idea). ‘There is still a real life to be lived,’ the narrator must remind herself as she is plunged back into figuring out how to be a person again and not a content-creator. The ongoings of the Portal suddenly don’t seem interesting or enlightened anymore and the frailty of life is examined as something bittersweet. Her traditionally conservative and pro-life family is suddenly met with one of the instances they’ve disbelieved their whole life and everyone is confronted with the sadness of it all. Being conservative Ohio, this is also timed with a turnover in the Supreme Court that has brought reproductive rights to the center stage of public political discourse and only amplifies the severity of her sister’s lack of options and women like her. ‘The faces of the senators were always comfortably closed against them, like doors on a federal holiday. Because the worst case scenarios had happened to them, the women must have done something to deserve it. They knew nothing about this period...when we were not yet the people it happened to. What proceeds from here is very moving, heartbreaking and very real. Seriously, get ready for tears. Lockwood has done something really special here. While sure, it might not age well, it also seems a great way to both memorialize the brief life of her niece as well as our current period of time. Lockwood even mocks her own endeavour, talking about how books about online life ‘had the strong whiff of old white intellectuals being weird about the blues, with possible boner involvement’, so at least she is self aware. Brilliantly observant despite being a bit too on-the-nose, this is a really moving book that is also seriously very funny. No One is Talking About This will, in fact, be a book people will be talking about. Don’t @ me. 4/5 ‘What did we have the right to expect from this life? What were the terms of the contract? What had the politicians promised us? The realtor, walking us through being’s beautiful house? Could we sue? We would sue! Could we blow it all open? We would blow it all open! Could we ... could we post about it?’

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize 2021 No One is Talking About This is surely going to divide opinion—you’ll either think it’s brilliant or massively overhyped. Put me in the former camp. The first half reads like the Twitter Annual 2017—a sort of memorialisation of the specific memes, banter and humour of a specific tiny period in history. As a not-very-online person, some of these I recognised (remember when everyone in the world read ‘Cat Person’ on the same day?), most I did not, some I t Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize 2021 No One is Talking About This is surely going to divide opinion—you’ll either think it’s brilliant or massively overhyped. Put me in the former camp. The first half reads like the Twitter Annual 2017—a sort of memorialisation of the specific memes, banter and humour of a specific tiny period in history. As a not-very-online person, some of these I recognised (remember when everyone in the world read ‘Cat Person’ on the same day?), most I did not, some I thought I didn’t... until I googled them and realised, yes, I definitely did. When I was at school we had these school-issued diaries—planners really—that we were supposed to use to organise our class schedules, but of course we instead circulated them among our friends all year and filled them with in-jokes, weird humour, good and bad art. They were ephemeral, unlike year books, and we never thought to keep them. Part 1 of this book reminded me of those diaries: the impulse to create bonds and sense of community through this kind of throwaway banter, a shared language. If I could see one of those old diaries now it would no doubt be filled with unfunny and incomprehensible nonsense, it wouldn’t ‘hold up’ to the passing time, but that’s beside the point. Lockwood gives us one of those diaries, or at least the modern equivalent, in a capsule of communal online life from just a few years ago. She shows us how quickly the punchlines fade, yes, but more importantly, why that community feeling is so seductive, how good it feels to be in on the joke, and how hard you have to hustle to stay current when everything is passé five minutes after it was cool. The fragments and the arch, ironic tone won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and after a while it was starting to wear on me. But then… There is a dramatic shift in tone from Part 1 to Part 2. This move is jarring, but it serves a very real narrative purpose: this book is about the stark contrast between Extremely Online life and what we call Real Life; it’s about the sudden shock of being jolted from one to the other by tragic events. Lockwood is performing a very clever trick here, underscoring the character’s emotional whiplash by giving the reader emotional whiplash too. “A minute means something to her, more than it means to us. We don’t know how long she has—I can give them to her, I can give her my minutes.” Then, almost angrily, “What was I doing with them before?” Part 2 is a deeply emotional story about grief and love, while also raising questions about who gets to be seen in the online social media world, whose lives are deemed to be worth documenting this way. The fragmentary prose style remains consistent even as the subject matter darkens, emphasising the short distance between tweets and poetry at times. It’s very moving and by the time I finished and read all the way to the end of the Acknowledgements I was wiping away tears. 4.5 stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Now deservedly shortlisted for the 2021 Women's Prize. “Stream-of-consciousness…. Stream-of-consciousness was long ago conquered by a man who wanted his wife to fart all over him. But what about the stream-of-a-¬consciousness that is not entirely your own? One that you participate in, but that also acts upon you?” From your experience you know Patricia Lockwood to be (tick all the correct answers) a) Author of the memoir “Priestdaddy” and an highly thoughtful contributor to the London Review o Now deservedly shortlisted for the 2021 Women's Prize. “Stream-of-consciousness…. Stream-of-consciousness was long ago conquered by a man who wanted his wife to fart all over him. But what about the stream-of-a-¬consciousness that is not entirely your own? One that you participate in, but that also acts upon you?” From your experience you know Patricia Lockwood to be (tick all the correct answers) a) Author of the memoir “Priestdaddy” and an highly thoughtful contributor to the London Review of Books b) Author of the harrrowing viral poem “Rape Joke” c) Originator of the Twitter concept of ironical sexts (sample: “I am a living male turtleneck. You are an art teacher in winter You put your whole head through me”) and author of one of the all time great literary tweets: @parisreview. So is Paris any good or not All three are true but depending on if your answer was more a/b (or even none of the above) than b/c may depend on how you engage with the first half of this book - a novel in which the wildly heralded Poet Laureate of Twitter aims with some success to re-cast cutting edge literary fiction for the world of Twitter. The first person narrator of the novel is unnamed, but the book is heavily autofictional. Lockwood has marked with some profundity that the reason that so much fiction is now autofictional is that Google allows us to discover that it is (whereas previously we would know of author’s lives only what they chose to reveal) – a quote I found out when Googling to see how much of this novel was autofictional. The narrator has gained fame in the Portal (Lockwood’s term Twitter - not as many reviews seem to claim the entire internet - given that the word “internet” is used at least once in proximity to the Portal) for a single viral tweet: Can a dog be twins?. Now her life seems to consist of two main parts – sitting on her chair participating in the newly emerging consciousness of the Portal and travelling around the world talking about the newly emerging consciousness of the Portal – and the first part’s plot matches this The plot! That was a laugh. The plot was that she sat motionless in her chair. The book is a series of (to quote Lauren Oyler’s narattor in “Fake Account”) “Necessarily short sections, simple, aphoristic sentences, more of an essay than a novel.” - a style that is familiar now from Jenny Offill (and others) and was parodied (slightly unsuccessfully in my view) in Oyler’s novel but which Lockwood and her narrator defend (with reservations) Why were we all writing like this now? Because a new kind of connectoin had to be made, and blink, synapse, little space-between was the only way to make it. Or because, and this was more frightening, it was the way the portal wrote. Many if not most of the sections are about viral tweets and memes, almost all I think taken from 2018, very little of which is actually explained - and I have seen some criticism of this. But then I can think of a book which for full appreciation relies on an encyclopedic knowledge in one City on a single day in 1904 (or tens of pages explaining the references) and that is considered perhaps the greatest novel of all time. Returning to this novel - for those who haunted the internet that year to the extent of the narrator’s inhabitation of planet Portal (and who are likely the a/b of my introduction) much I think will be very familiar indeed and bring lots of knowing smiles that come when you get or are reminded of a shared in-joke (and so much of this section is about how the Portal is a form of shared consciousness and shared jokes and ideas – and of how difficult it is to convey that sense to future generations or to those not of the Portal). For those like me who did not – the choices I think are fourfold: (1) to ignore the memes altogether; (2) to cheat; (3) to google-while-you-read; or (4) (as a mid-case) to see which ones you can spot/recall. I read somewhere between the fourth (I was impressed with myself for example for spotting the reference to the “Cat People” short-story but it was a rare triumph) and more of the time the third approach – and would not recommend the first or second – as I think the memes and understanding them is important (see end of my review). Some – perhaps many - of the references themselves say something deeper I think about the themes that the author is exploring – sometimes in a way which is concisely explored (the book is full of eminently quotable aphorisms) and sometimes in an exercise left for the reader. One that intrigued me is a lengthy section describing watching a documentary of Thom Yorke singing “Creep” to a festival audience, a section which contains perhaps the second most insightful discussion of that song I have ever seen (the first of course to any member like me of the MTV rather than Twitter generation was by Beavis and Butthead). The narrator describes how Yorke’s almost palpable disgust at how a song which was originally and specifically around alienation/isolation is now hollered back to him by huge crowds of the very type of people that excluded him - suddenly allows him to recapture and re-own that very sense of detachment of what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here at the heart of the song. And of course one thinks of how Twitter has changed over time and how the narrator and Lockwood and continually trying to reclaim the original sense of freedom they felt there against their disgust at it being the very thing that permitted and enabled the rise of Trump (called in the book the Dictator). This first part of the novel is nothing if not bold in its claims to re-address the issue of what literary fiction should be in the 2120s. As per my opening quote the Joycean comparison is explicit – and reinforced by a visit to Dublin. And a trip to Scotland leads the narrator and her husband to sneer at tourists visiting a lighthouse only to realise later that the tourists are paying homage to Virginia Woolf. Another trip leads her to view an ancient cairn and reflect: “They said all you needed to be remembered was one small stone piled on another,” she thinks to herself. “Wasn’t that what we were doing in the portal, small stone on small stone on small stone?” The second part of the novel gives a very abrupt and very deliberate change of gears. The narrator’s sister is pregnant and the LOL-ing at the baby’s head on its scans suddenly takes a dramatic turn after an urgent message from her mother asking her to fly back to the family home, as Doctors have discovered that the baby is suffering from Proteus syndrome (gigantism as suffered by the elephant man) and will likely not survive – the only real question being if her sister will also survive given Ohio laws which even make it illegal to induce a pregnant woman weeks before term. This leads to agony for her strongly, in fact militantly pro-life father – forced now to “live in the world he has created” (that itself an echo of course of the Twitterati’s dilemma in Trumps America) . And then unexpectedly the baby survives and the book takes an even more serious turn. Of course it is tempting to view the baby as a metaphor – a metaphor for the unexpected survival but also unusual and unprecedented development of Twitter as a medium, for the hyperbole and gigantism of the internet; or alternatively (as the narrator increasingly finds true feelings and depth of emotion in her love for her niece) as a metaphor for the difference between the Portal and IRL. And both of these metaphors are absolutely relevant. But also as the narrator remarks “It spoke of something deep in human beings how hard she had to pinch herself when she started thinking of it all as a metaphor.” – because this part of the book is given much greater emotional heft when you realise it is the least fictional part and that it is very much about Lockwood’s own experiences and her own niece. This section will I think be seen as emotionally moving by some and emotionally manipulative by others – I was much more in the former camp. It also of course causes the narrator to examine her use of the Portal: her popular and archly ironical persona there which has given her whatever measure of identity and recognition she has “If all she was was funny, and none of this was funny, where did that leave her?”; her realisation that the universal shared experiences of the internet do not match the individual or closely shared nature of personal tragedy “The previous unshakeable conviction that someone else was writing the inside of her head was gone”; but also a recognition that much of what she has learn through Twitter and the shared vocabulary and shortcuts she has established with her sister do enable them to find a way to navigate through and communicate during an impossible situation - “For whatever lives we lead they do prepare us for this moment.” But the strongest parts of this book are those which just examine the miracle of life, the smell of a baby’s head, that celebrate the small battles that her niece wins in a war that she was already destined to lose, even before her birth. There is so much else I could say about this book but I would urge people to engage with it. For anyone with an LRB subscription many ideas in the book were included in a British Museum lecture by the author shortly before lockdown (https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v41/n...) a lecture which the narrator also gives towards the end of the book. I listened to this book in Audiobook form – where it is excellently narrated by Kristen Sieh who captures, I think, the tone of the book perfectly. If I had any criticism it would probably be to drop the accents – particularly the Australian one. One thing about listening to the Audiobook while say walking your dog (as I did) is that unlike reading a Kindle version, or a paper copy (but with a smartphone by your side) it is not so easy to Google the various references/memes etc and find yourself drawn into your own portal. Normally I would say that is a good thing – I aim (not always successfully) to use literature to escape from the omni-presence of the screen – but here I think this does not allow full identification with the underlying worldview at the centre of the book. And as for the cheating option – well this link (which I found after I finished helps) https://lithub.com/all-the-memes-in-p... but again I think turns entering the portal into staying on the outside looking in and so does not really work. My thanks to Bloomsbury UK Audio for an Audiobook ARC via NetGalley

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    4.5 What a phenomenal reading experience that challenged me and made me a better reader. I usually take a few days to think about the book before I write my review, but given the way this was written I know that I will be better served writing this now. There is very decidedly a Part 1 and a Part 2 of this book. (It's broken up this way so it's helpful.) Part 1 is very weird (but not in a bad way) until you get used to it and also kind of hilarious and sad. Both parts are written in the same styl 4.5 What a phenomenal reading experience that challenged me and made me a better reader. I usually take a few days to think about the book before I write my review, but given the way this was written I know that I will be better served writing this now. There is very decidedly a Part 1 and a Part 2 of this book. (It's broken up this way so it's helpful.) Part 1 is very weird (but not in a bad way) until you get used to it and also kind of hilarious and sad. Both parts are written in the same style, however Part 1 is a more rapid fire/stream of consciousness on the state of things prior to COVID. (Culturally, socially and politically.) You know that the narrator is a female, probably in her late 20s/early 30s and that she went viral online. That's about it. There are no character names, no real plot - just musings on things. Smart and observant musings though. I was highlighting like crazy! To be helpful, I thought I would reference some of the themes discussed to aid if you're deciding to pick this up or not. Topics: -Our reliance on technology - we are slaves to it and it is rapidly interfering with each generation more and more the younger someone is. -Trump is never mentioned by name, but referred to as 'The Dictator'. I think that is all you really need to know on that. -Women's rights and health -Climate change - we are destroying the Earth and no one cares Then comes Part 2. Part 2 is intense. I don't want to spoil it, but it's very moving. It's also something that does need to be discussed. I feel like the book kind of calmed down for this portion. The stream of consciousness aspect was still the same, but the pace wasn't as fast. The paragraphs were longer and more emotional. It was very much how any human being going through an intense emotional experience would handle themselves. There is the bliss of life before and then there is the current and the after. Where your eyes are opened and the things that were so important before aren't important anymore. Overall, this book really helped me grow and look at the many ways a story can be told. I am thrilled to have received this and hope this something you can be open minded enough to try. It's different, but it's very worth it. Thank you to Riverhead Books and Patricia Lockwood for the gifted finished copy. Publication Date: 02/16/2021

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter Boyle

    I was a huge fan of Patricia Lockwood's memoir Priestdaddy, a book I have recommended to many people. A couple of years ago, I heard her speak at an event in Dublin with Sally Rooney and thought she was hilarious. So I was eager to get stuck into her debut novel, especially when I heard that it addressed internet culture, a topic she clearly knows a lot about. The book is divided into two parts. In the first, the protagonist has achieved fame via a viral post that reads: "Can a dog be twins?". Sh I was a huge fan of Patricia Lockwood's memoir Priestdaddy, a book I have recommended to many people. A couple of years ago, I heard her speak at an event in Dublin with Sally Rooney and thought she was hilarious. So I was eager to get stuck into her debut novel, especially when I heard that it addressed internet culture, a topic she clearly knows a lot about. The book is divided into two parts. In the first, the protagonist has achieved fame via a viral post that reads: "Can a dog be twins?". She travels the world on the back of this and other humorous tweets, speaking about the internet (or "the portal" as she refers to it) on panels and at conferences. In the second part, the woman is urged to return to her family home, where her sister is experiencing pregnancy complications. The first half may test the reader's patience. How much you get out of it probably depends on how internet savvy you are. There are a lot in-jokes and references to popular memes. As an avid Twitter user myself, I found it funny and clever, though perhaps there was a lack of heft to this part of the novel. It's more like a collection of witty observations about social media, such as the sheer absurdity of it all: "As she began to type, “Enormous fatberg made of grease, wet wipes, and condoms is terrorizing London’s sewers,” her hands began to waver in their outlines and she had to rock the crown of her head against the cool wall, back and forth, back and forth. What, in place of these sentences, marched in the brains of previous generations? Folk rhymes about planting turnips, she guessed." Or how the Twitter mob decides on its next victim: "Every day their attention must turn, like the shine on a school of fish, all at once, toward a new person to hate. Sometimes the subject was a war criminal, but other times it was someone who made a heinous substitution in guacamole. It was not so much the hatred she was interested in as the swift attenuation, as if their collective blood had made a decision." Or how addictive the Internet can become: "When she was away from it, it was not just like being away from a body, but a warm body that wanted her. The way, when she was gone from it, she thought so longingly of My information. Oh, my answers. Oh, my everything I never knew I needed to know. Everything changes in the second part. The family heartache that befalls the protagonist gives the story an emotional core. It causes her to reexamine her life. However, while she begins to grasp the insignificance of the internet in the grand scheme of things, silly Twitter jokes are still sent between the narrator and her sister as a way of coping with their situation. It's OK for both worlds to co-exist, Lockwood seems to be saying. Without giving too much away, I found the second half of the story incredibly moving. Lockwood writes so beautifully about the main character's love for her little niece and the world she is so eager for her to experience: "The things she wanted the baby to know seemed small, so small. How it felt to go to a grocery store on vacation; to wake at three a.m. and run your whole life through your fingertips; first library card; new lipstick; a toe going numb for two months because you wore borrowed shoes to a friend’s wedding; Thursday; October; “She’s Like the Wind” in a dentist’s office; driver’s license picture where you look like a killer; getting your bathing suit back on after you go to the bathroom; touching a cymbal for sound and then touching it again for silence; playing house in the refrigerator box; letting a match burn down to the fingerprints; one hand in the Scrabble bag and then I I I O U E A; eyes racing to the end of Villette (skip the parts about the crétin, sweetheart), hamburger wrappers on a road trip; the twist of a heavy red apple in an orchard; word on the tip of the tongue; the portal, but just for a minute." If I do have some slight reservations about the book, it's with the first half. The nature of its fragmented commentary on social media may put some readers off and it's possible the cultural references contained within will date rapidly. But the devastating second half elevates the story into something profound, putting the protagonist's earlier carefree existence and trivial concerns into context. I experienced lots of emotions reading this book: it made me laugh, it brought a tear to my eye, and it made me grateful that we have writers as poetic and incisive as Patricia Lockwood, who can make sense of this modern world and all its madness.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steph

    no one is talking about this absolutely defied my expectations and made me sob. i'm less engaged in social media than most people my age, so i was worried that this book wouldn't resonate with me. but it did, because it's so fucking human. it's a social media novel, but it's also so much more. the first half of the book establishes our main character as a resident of "the portal" of the internet, or twitter, or whatever it is. lockwood perfectly captures the surreal and crushing feeling of existin no one is talking about this absolutely defied my expectations and made me sob. i'm less engaged in social media than most people my age, so i was worried that this book wouldn't resonate with me. but it did, because it's so fucking human. it's a social media novel, but it's also so much more. the first half of the book establishes our main character as a resident of "the portal" of the internet, or twitter, or whatever it is. lockwood perfectly captures the surreal and crushing feeling of existing today; especially within the dark, claustrophobic, disorienting post-2016 US. it often gave me a grim chuckle, because this sense of alienated unreality is way too relatable. my digital copy is full of underlinings. the passages are short, but they all feel fucking true and scary and beautiful. then the second half comes along, and our main character is swept into a world apart from the portal. she withdraws from the standard social media alienation, and is instead faced with something much bigger. something that no one is talking about. i could relate to the disconnect that comes with occupying a space that isn’t commonly relatable or easy to talk about. and of course, the isolation of pain and grief. this second half had me absolutely enraptured. i chuckled and cried and had to double-check: is this being classified as fiction?? it's in the realm of reproductive rights, but as soon as that stops being the thing, it becomes a novel about pain and loss, and about cherishing beautiful, precious things for as long as we are able. i'm not even really sure how to talk about this. one thing i found particularly profound is about the feeling of not having a body when you're immersed in the portal; and that "the comforting thing about movies was that she could watch bodies that were not feeling they were bodies." and later, lockwood mentions that this transcendence of the dreaded corporeal form (and all its burdens) is also how we often think about heaven: The weather is sunny there. And warm, but we wouldn't feel it the way we do now because we wouldn't be in the form our bodies are in now - no sickness and broken bones. We'd be flying through the warmth more than walking. i really appreciate the subtle cyclicality of this novel. so many small ideas that return later in new contexts. lockwood's fragmented writing style won't appeal to everyone, but it's so fucking fitting here. and there are some passages i didn't connect with and references that went over my head. but i still enjoyed them. there's a sensation of this book slipping through my fingers. it's somehow ephemeral; but not for want of substance. sure, maybe this is most salient social media novel we've got as of yet. it is a remarkable encapsulation of how it feels to occupy our post-2016 world. but calling it a twitter novel is selling it short. this book buzzes with the energy of a million painful things.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Now Nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2021 This autofictional account of grief could be deeply moving, if it wasn't so disparate and full of gratuitous non-insights about digital communication. Split into two parts, we first meet a narrator who is obsessed with the internet, which is referred to as "the portal". The text presents lots of weird twitter stuff pushing the deeply conservative attitude that all digital communication is necessarily deficient communication, contributing to th Now Nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2021 This autofictional account of grief could be deeply moving, if it wasn't so disparate and full of gratuitous non-insights about digital communication. Split into two parts, we first meet a narrator who is obsessed with the internet, which is referred to as "the portal". The text presents lots of weird twitter stuff pushing the deeply conservative attitude that all digital communication is necessarily deficient communication, contributing to the atomization of society and causing those partaking in the world of social media platforms to develop levels of dysfunction that inhibit them from fully interacting with the real world (ha, hello part 2, but I won't spoil the plot). Hot take: The quality and effects of digital media and communication depend on the individual user's media competence, which also goes for TV (which does not necessarily make you dumber), newspapers (which do not necessarily make you smarter) etc. Plus: You can say a lot about the twitter humor dished out here, but funny it is not. This kind of fishing for applause in the "o tempra, o mores"-pond generally annoys me to no end, but then part 2 hits and tells a moving story about the narrator's family being struck by grief due to an unforeseeable and unchangeable turn of destiny. Reading the acknowledgements, many of the events presented have apparently really taken place. Why oh why does this story have to be combined with a lengthy, shallow first part that then keeps showing up in the second half? Because the digital world and real life clash? Come on, Patricia Lockwood, this is so below your intellectual capabilities, give us more of that emotional truth and deep insight from part 2! All in all, an uneven effort by a talented writer who wastes half her text smugly chillaxing in platitudes about twitter when she could actually challenge and emotionally touch readers, as proven in the second half.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    the great Twitter novel.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hugh

    Shortlisted for the Women's Prize 2021 This book is in two parts, and the shorter second part is much stronger and more personal than the first. In the first half we meet the unnamed main protagonist, who spends much of her life on social media where she has attracted a degree of fame that allows her to travel around the world talking about her life. The book is narrated from an omniscient third person perspective, but the protagonist clearly has many autobiographical elements. The first part of Shortlisted for the Women's Prize 2021 This book is in two parts, and the shorter second part is much stronger and more personal than the first. In the first half we meet the unnamed main protagonist, who spends much of her life on social media where she has attracted a degree of fame that allows her to travel around the world talking about her life. The book is narrated from an omniscient third person perspective, but the protagonist clearly has many autobiographical elements. The first part of the book largely mirrors social media - it is full of disconnected factoids and memes linked by a loose personal narrative. The story really comes to life at the start of the second part, when the protagonist is called home by her mother to help with her sister's problems - the sister is pregnant and the scans have revealed that she is suffering from Proteus syndrome, and the account of the way the family deal with this is deeply moving. The book as a whole is rather difficult to assess - my four star rating is a compromise between a generous three for the first part and five for the second.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Patricia Lockwood’s unnamed protagonist became famous for posting the question, “Can a dog be twins?” That inane koan launched her globe-spanning career as a social media star. What follows is a series of isolated moments about a woman who is both a creature and a critic of the Web. “No One Is Talking About This” refers to the Internet as “the portal,” which is all part of its effort to disorient us enough to see how bizarre modern life has become. The narrator, raised “to a certain airy prominen Patricia Lockwood’s unnamed protagonist became famous for posting the question, “Can a dog be twins?” That inane koan launched her globe-spanning career as a social media star. What follows is a series of isolated moments about a woman who is both a creature and a critic of the Web. “No One Is Talking About This” refers to the Internet as “the portal,” which is all part of its effort to disorient us enough to see how bizarre modern life has become. The narrator, raised “to a certain airy prominence,” lives in a surreal fusion with social media. “She opened the portal, and the mind met her more than half-way,” Lockwood writes. “Why did the portal feel so private, when you only entered it when you needed to be everywhere?” Such are the abiding mysteries of experience engineered by a few weird billionaires in Silicon Valley. “This did not feel like real life, exactly,” she says, “but nowadays what did?” The short sections that pour across these pages — most not much longer than a couple of tweets — offer a tour of our collective consciousness, the great cacophony of images and voices that catch the virtual world’s attention: “She lay every morning under an avalanche of details, blissed, pictures of breakfasts in Patagonia, a girl applying her foundation with a hard-boiled egg, a shiba inu in Japan leaping from paw to paw to greet its own owner, ghostly pale women posting pictures of their bruises — the world pressing closer and closer, the spiderweb of human connection grown so thick it was almost a shimmering and solid silk.” You can hear in these moments Lockwood’s experience as a poet. She’s a master of startling concision when highlighting the absurdities we’ve grown too lazy to. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    I quit Instagram a week or so ago. Well, “quit” isn’t necessarily accurate, for Instagram – really, Facebook – doesn’t let its users off so easily. To which my account wasn’t deleted in total per se, but “deactivated” should I want to return at some point in the future. It’s doubtful I will. But then again, maybe it’s not. After all, I’ve put myself on hiatus before only to come back at full force, seething with desire to post, to scroll, to like, to comment, to lie, lie, lie, because it’s all on I quit Instagram a week or so ago. Well, “quit” isn’t necessarily accurate, for Instagram – really, Facebook – doesn’t let its users off so easily. To which my account wasn’t deleted in total per se, but “deactivated” should I want to return at some point in the future. It’s doubtful I will. But then again, maybe it’s not. After all, I’ve put myself on hiatus before only to come back at full force, seething with desire to post, to scroll, to like, to comment, to lie, lie, lie, because it’s all one big fucking lie disguised as a series of heavily manipulated truths. And we all love to tell these lies, tell these sweet little lies (*wink wink*) about ourselves; real life is just too, well, real, for others to want to take interest. If this feels like a retread in thought and theory, that’s because I just made a similar assertion a couple of reviews ago when profiling Lauren Oyler’s dymanic, whipsmart debut, Fake Accounts. Likely in other reviews, as well, come to think of it. For my opinions of social media are like that of a jilted lover: quick to criticize in the face of dejection, yet wholly open to rekindling the spark despite all negative consequences. I can hear you saying to yourself: “but you quit – sorry, “deactivated” – a social media account, Matt. Why are you making such a big deal out of it?” Truth is, I’m not. In fact, this is the first I’ve proactively mentioned my exile to anyone. And it would’ve likely continued that way had I not been provoked to bring it up, for my reliance to and subsequent dismissal of social media couldn’t be more contextually relevant than it is right here and now. Have you been distracted lately? I sure as hell have. Honestly, I’m not sure how you couldn’t be. I could list the offending parties but that would be pointless; for one, it would take up too much space, and secondly, we’re all already keenly aware of what’s keeping our minds aflutter. Social media acts as a catalyst to our distractions, enabling us to lead lives in a fragmented, if not tangential, sense. And to be honest, it’s attractive, the distraction it provides – that is until distraction morphs into assimilation and renders us all cartoons; better still, avatars. The problem with this is that we’re too immersed to realize it at first. We’re too reliant upon it to admit that what was intended to be a brief respite from our daily obligations has become one of them. Instagram was my escape during COVID. I turned to it when the real world was getting too real to handle, when memes mimicking this collective sense of dread were about the only thing to distract me from its presence. I wasn’t just scrolling through my feed each and every hour of each and every day, but posting more, creating more “stories.” Hell, it had gotten to a point where I’d plan them in advance as if fulfilling a contractual obligation. I knew full well I wasn’t doing anything other than contributing to a void growing increasingly emptier. What’s more, I knew it wasn’t for any substantial fulfillment; social media has the satiation properties of a rice cake. Aside from its undeniable aptitude for altering our perceptions of reality, what social media also has is the innate ability to manipulate, whether it be our behaviors or thoughts or opinions. Mind you, to an extent I work in social media, so I was surrounded by it already. Coupled with my own personal affinity, such divergence led to nearly my every action being affected in some way, shape or form by social media. Tender family moments became meme-fied, feelings became expressed through emojis, announcing hashtags before declarative statements became part of my everyday vernacular. Suffice to say we’re still in the early stages of my self-imposed separation, but the immediate results have been rather significant. My brain was already a bit, let’s say, all over the place, long before the Internet came around, yet I’d always been able to control the chaos. I’m not quite back to having full control again just yet, but things have certainly become more streamlined. Not linear by any means, but less scattered. Maybe you find this relatable, maybe not. Maybe you’re one who is completely fine being entrenched within social media’s clutches; that’s cool, to each their own. Either way, it’s very likely you have been (or continue to be) impacted by it. Which is why it’s imperative that anyone who considers themselves part of the digital age should read No One is Talking About This. Patricia Lockwood – she of Priestdaddy fame – has gone out and crafted perhaps the most “of-the-moment” novel in the history of moments. And that’s precisely what No One is Talking About This is: a series of moments, many of which presented in fragments, all of which direct results of our protagonist’s addiction to social media. Such dependency is understandable, however; Lockwood’s unnamed heroine is an Internet superstar, having achieved fame when a post of hers (“can a dog be twins?”) goes viral. This leads to international speaking engagements whereupon she waxes romantically about “the portal” and its embarrassment of riches (and vice versa). She’s a living, breathing meme in and of herself. And it’s impacted just about everything. Her thoughts are slapdash and erratic. Her reactions even more so. Not unlike Jenny Offill’s transcendent ode to preoccupation, Weather, Lockwood takes on a staccato approach, firing off fragment after fragment and disguising them as paragraphs. It’s as if we’re scrolling through our protagonist’s brain amidst a bout of cranial nausea. Be that as it may, such scrolling doesn’t always allow for what people in my industry refer to as “thumb-stopping” content – but that’s the point. Every interesting nugget offered by Lockwood’s lead is countered by a half dozen innocuous ones. The writer is, in a sense, mimicking that age old PSA, paraphrasing its message to say: “this is your brain, and this is your brain on social media.” It’s dizzying, fitful and entirely engrossing. It’s also going to have its critics. Which is why I implore anyone who reads No One is Talking About This to solider on to its triumphant and tragic second half, wherein a family emergency brings our heroine back down to earth (or, more accurately, Ohio). It’s here where Lockwood truly flexes her muscles as a dynamic writer, balancing social media esoterism with honest-to-goodness earnestness, to showcase that even the most affected are capable feeling real feelings, manipulated though they may be. Lesser writers would’ve crafted their narrator to make a dramatic 180, to denounce social media and devote their life to something tangible; ironically, Lockwood takes the more realistic approach, offering subtle tweaks to her character’s disposition rather than gradual ones, proof positive of social media’s lingering impact. It’s as riveting as it is sad as it is hopeful. By year’s end, whichever meme you laughed at today will be nothing more than a distant memory, a forgotten cookie in your mind’s cache. Same goes for tomorrow, and the next day. Sure, you may retain a few over the course of the remaining ten months, but that’s beside the point; you’ve already been conditioned for such fleetingness. The real question should be: will it always be like this? Will we ever be able to distinguish the superficial from what’s really important? That’s why, for me, Patricia Lockwood’s brilliant novel could not have come at a better time. For social media had been practically embedded into my psyche like a source code gone awry. Who knows where my brain would be had I not “deactivated”? Would No One is Talking About This have resonated so emphatically? Either way, I’m confident this genre-defying, generation-defining zeitgeist won’t fall to the wayside like this morning’s meme, or tomorrow’s tweet. It will be something everybody will be talking about.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    I'm well aware I'm going to be an outlier on this one, but I'm not deliberately trying to have a contrary take – it just didn't do anything much for me. Feels a few years out of date despite its supposed up-to-the-minuteness; I found the tryhard Weird Twitter humour unfunny and the emotional beats predictable. Review copy from Edelweiss. I'm well aware I'm going to be an outlier on this one, but I'm not deliberately trying to have a contrary take – it just didn't do anything much for me. Feels a few years out of date despite its supposed up-to-the-minuteness; I found the tryhard Weird Twitter humour unfunny and the emotional beats predictable. Review copy from Edelweiss.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Part pithy yet fragmented reflection of what it's like to live in "the portal" reminiscent of Jenny Offill, transitioning to a story about a baby born into a family who loves her despite her inability to thrive. It's ... a strange combination and I was bummed the author didn't narrate. A lot of the observational humor in the first half of the novel will make more sense to you if you are heavily entrenched in Instagram or TikTok, but also meme culture. And a lot of it is quite in your face as far Part pithy yet fragmented reflection of what it's like to live in "the portal" reminiscent of Jenny Offill, transitioning to a story about a baby born into a family who loves her despite her inability to thrive. It's ... a strange combination and I was bummed the author didn't narrate. A lot of the observational humor in the first half of the novel will make more sense to you if you are heavily entrenched in Instagram or TikTok, but also meme culture. And a lot of it is quite in your face as far as crassness, joking about death, destruction, sex, etc. It won't be for everyone. Also CW for (view spoiler)[ death of child (hide spoiler)] . I listened to this through the Volumes App which I have access to thanks to Random House Audio and sometimes Penguin Audio. This book came out February 16, 2021.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    2.5 rounded down Quite saddened to say that this was a huge disappointment. I loved Priestdaddy and enjoyed Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, so had been looking forward to Lockwood's fiction debut. So it's unfortunate that I didn't get much out of this and couldn't really see what the author was trying to achieve with the novel. The first half of the book is made up of a LOT of "Weird Twitter" humour, which isn't even funny (to this reader) in an ironic or satirical way, and added very littl 2.5 rounded down Quite saddened to say that this was a huge disappointment. I loved Priestdaddy and enjoyed Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, so had been looking forward to Lockwood's fiction debut. So it's unfortunate that I didn't get much out of this and couldn't really see what the author was trying to achieve with the novel. The first half of the book is made up of a LOT of "Weird Twitter" humour, which isn't even funny (to this reader) in an ironic or satirical way, and added very little to the plot. The second half of the book goes on to follow the protagonist navigating the world after the birth of her niece, who is born with birth defects. This half of the book is a complete parallel to the first, and is made up of tender moments in her niece's life. Whilst parts for this resonated with me - particular those in the latter half of the book - it just didn't come together well as a whole. A shame, as I still love Lockwood's writing, but unfortunately No One Is Talking About This just fell flat for this reader. Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anita Pomerantz

    Let's start with the fact that this book had a couple of tremendous strengths. Despite those, I can't really say I liked it. While it was thematically interesting and had moments that were truly touching, those strengths were offset by its structure. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, we are introduced to a girl who is really, really into the internet (known as the portal here). She is an influencer (in today's parlance) who rose to fame with a single meme. Her life is effect Let's start with the fact that this book had a couple of tremendous strengths. Despite those, I can't really say I liked it. While it was thematically interesting and had moments that were truly touching, those strengths were offset by its structure. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, we are introduced to a girl who is really, really into the internet (known as the portal here). She is an influencer (in today's parlance) who rose to fame with a single meme. Her life is effectively lived online. Part I basically illustrates this by re-surfacing a whole bunch of Twitter nostalgia in bite sized chunks. If you were into Twitter in 2017-19, this whole section might be a fun reminiscence. If you weren't (and I wasn't), you basically have little idea of what is being alluded to. Fortunately, you can google it all, and some enterprising person actually compiled a list. But I fail to see how this structure made for a good reading experience. Nor did I feel like I really got a whole lot of insight into our protagonist other than her life was inseparable from the online world. That's an interesting piece of social commentary to ponder actually, but by trying to present it in such a "I'm oh so clever" way, I think it became mostly boring. Part II was fortunately much better. The protagonist's niece is born, and unfortunately she is has a syndrome (one you will recognize, but I don't want to spoil too much here). She is yanked away from her internet life forced into the real world by this crisis situation. From here, we see a family dealing with the tremendous love of a child, despite her imperfections, and the accompanying grief that derives from her hopeless condition. There are some important moments of truth in this section, and I think anyone who has had a child will really be hard pressed not to shed a tear. However, there are still moments from the portal and bits of pop culture woven into part II, and the structure of very short paragraphs remains . . .and for me, it was merely distracting. As soon as I was feeling something, I was onto the next thing. This book struck me as one that might be cool to read in college. The author seemed to be saying that online life, which is almost always going in for a laugh or out for a kill, is a distraction from the real world where perfection is not a pre-requisite to love and even the helpless creatures help to underscore our humanity. Or maybe I was just hoping that's what the author wanted to say. It's possible she just wanted to juxtapose the comedy of our online existence to the pathos of reality, and to show how fragmented our lives have become with only the most impactful life events pulling us back from the lure of the portal. The problem is - - I'm really not sure what she meant, whether this book was intended as black comedy, or a salute to internet culture, or an autobiographical tribute for her sister. I have no idea really, and while I salute the creative effort, I can't say I liked where I ended up.

  17. 4 out of 5

    W.D. Clarke

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Fair warning: the final third of this book is almost unbearably poignant, and it is to the author's certain credit that she has rendered human suffering with not only great skill, but with wisdom, compassion, and even humour. Quite coincidentally, I had planned on reading Terry Eagleton's newish excursis, Tragedy (before being induced to jumping on the Lockwood train by friend ATG's review), and in the former, TE writes: In the view of some modern critics, philosophers such as Hegel gentrify t Fair warning: the final third of this book is almost unbearably poignant, and it is to the author's certain credit that she has rendered human suffering with not only great skill, but with wisdom, compassion, and even humour. Quite coincidentally, I had planned on reading Terry Eagleton's newish excursis, Tragedy (before being induced to jumping on the Lockwood train by friend ATG's review), and in the former, TE writes: In the view of some modern critics, philosophers such as Hegel gentrify the unspeakable by insisting that tragedy discloses a rational design. It is a persuasive case, though the very fact that tragic art exists suggests that there is more to the world than pain. Tragedy is not a cry without words. The trauma of the Real for Jacques Lacan lies beyond language, but tragedy remains just on this side of that silence. ‘Language by means of sounds, or better still words, is a vast liberation,’ writes Bertolt Brecht, ‘because it means the sufferer is beginning to produce something. He’s already mixing his sorrow with an account of the blows he has received; he’s already making something out of the utterly devastating. Observation has set in.’ Rather than "gentrifying" trauma, Lockwood makes it speak, and so has indeed done what Brecht suggests in that final third of her book: observing, suffering, mixing, making: they point toward a kind of possible liberation because they document the interpersonal nature of, and possible for solidarity in, a grief that is shared. For the first two-thirds of a book, though, our narrator is observing, sure, the ir-rational design of the "culture" of the interwebs (or the Portal, as she portentously calls it), but she is largely alone in her togetherness with millions of other twitterers, and while should be eternally thankful that we are in her head-space (in which she interrogates her place in the culture with such typically satirical nano-essays such as...) How were we supposed to write now that we could no longer compare anything to a phantom limb? Was the phrase “the Braille of her nipples” to be absolutely retired? Were we just never to say that someone “inclined her head like a geisha” ever again? Could we not call the weather bipolar without risking the prison of public opinion? Not imply that birdwatchers are autistic? Could we not say the crescent moon was “as slender as a poor person”? Not say the sun “crashed inevitably into the mountains like a woman driver”? ...rather than endure too much of a re-presentation of what it's like to engage with the nastier corners of the Web/Net (substitute whatever word I should used if I was not a dad-jean-wearing Gen-Xer), but that does raise a bit of a limitation to this book. For all of her verbal agility (and it is considerable!), this is largely (until Part Two, of course) a pleasure cruise through Junk Culture with that high-level solipsist, the Hive Mind—albeit with a whip-smart version of Julie the Cruise Director keeping us...diverted. Nothing wrong with that! But I think that in his I Hate the Internet Jarett Kobek does a better job of portraying online culture (there's that word again) while gaining some critical distance on its socio-politico-economic implications. Also, you might have to be more on Twitter than I've ever been to really, really dig Part One of this book. I was entertained, made to think, stymied a little, went "Woo!" along with the rest of the Portal a couple of times, but was not wooed, and not "wowed"—until Part Two, of course, and its tale of bottomless woe, its terrible beauty—just...wow. Woah. 3.5* overall, then, but 5* for Part 2 alone...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (P.S. However did I forget to mention that the protagonist has a cat called Dr. Butthole?! We have definitely deployed that nickname for our cat a few times since I read this.) Priestdaddy is one of my absolute favourite books, so Lockwood’s debut novel was one of the 2021 releases I was most looking forward to reading. It took me a while to warm to, but ultimately did not disappoint. It probably helped that I was familiar with the author’s iconoclastic sense of humour. This is a work of third-pe (P.S. However did I forget to mention that the protagonist has a cat called Dr. Butthole?! We have definitely deployed that nickname for our cat a few times since I read this.) Priestdaddy is one of my absolute favourite books, so Lockwood’s debut novel was one of the 2021 releases I was most looking forward to reading. It took me a while to warm to, but ultimately did not disappoint. It probably helped that I was familiar with the author’s iconoclastic sense of humour. This is a work of third-person autofiction – much more so than I’d realized before I read the Acknowledgments – and to start with it feels like a flippant skewering of modern life, which for some is all about online personality and performance. A woman who became a social media star by tweeting quips like “Can a dog be twins?” reflects on life on “the portal” and under “the dictator.” “This did not feel like real life, exactly, but nowadays what did?” “as long as she read the news, line by line and minute by minute, she had some say in what happened, didn’t she?” Midway through the book, she receives a wake-up call in the form of texts from her mother summoning her back to the Midwest for a family emergency. “If all she was was funny, and none of this was funny, where did that leave her?” “It was a marvel how cleanly and completely this lifted her out of the stream of regular life.” (view spoiler)[Her sister is pregnant and they’ve just learned that the baby has Proteus Syndrome (what “the Elephant Man” had) and is unlikely to survive. Ohio’s draconian abortion laws rule out a medical abortion, so the only option for her sister is to deliver the baby by emergency C-section at the earliest age of viability. Being an aunt and godmother gives her a new sense of purpose and puts everything into perspective, making her online achievements seem meaningless. “We don’t know how long she has—I can give them to her. I can give her my minutes. What was I doing with them before?” Despite the whole family’s desperate love, care, and undivided attention, the baby girl only lives for six months and a day. (hide spoiler)] Shit just got real, as they say. But “Would it change her?” she asks herself. Apparently, this very thing happened to Lockwood’s own family, which accounts for how heartfelt the second half is – still funny, but with an ache behind it, the same that I sensed and loved in Priestdaddy. The story had unexpected personal poignance for me as well, in that (view spoiler)[the baby has seizures because of her abnormal brain development, and my 18-month-old goddaughter has epilepsy that may have an as-yet-diagnosed deeper cause (hide spoiler)] . It is the about-face that truly makes this novel, forcing readers to question the value of a digital existence based on glib pretence. As the protagonist tells her students at one point, “Your attention is holy,” and with life so fragile there is no time to waste. Horrible and beautiful things coexist. What Lockwood is trying to do with this book is even bigger than that, though, I think. She mocks the idea of plot yet takes up the mantle of the “social novel,” as if she’s creating a whole new format for the Internet-age novel, in short, digestible sections. I’m not sure this is quite as earth-shattering as all that, but it is both entertaining and deceptively deep and should make readers consider to what extent they’ve succumbed to “internet poisoning.” It feels like a very current and topical book and so plays the role that Weather did in last year’s Women’s Prize race, such that I hope it will make it through to the shortlist.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Darryl Suite

    FINAL REVIEW: Before going into this book, I’d heard it being labeled as a “Twitter novel.” I was like, what the heck does that mean? I get it now. Each point the author is making is written almost like tweets. The same way most tweets are designed to make the most impact with the economy of words, a straight-to-the-point manner and a razor sharp wit. This book sort of does that. It is written in fractured prose. We’re given bite-sized paragraphs which are designed to make a certain point before FINAL REVIEW: Before going into this book, I’d heard it being labeled as a “Twitter novel.” I was like, what the heck does that mean? I get it now. Each point the author is making is written almost like tweets. The same way most tweets are designed to make the most impact with the economy of words, a straight-to-the-point manner and a razor sharp wit. This book sort of does that. It is written in fractured prose. We’re given bite-sized paragraphs which are designed to make a certain point before we move on to the next cool thing. I haven’t fully embraced this style of writing, similar to Jenny Offill’s “Weather.” but I enjoyed it a lot more here. Maybe it’s because I thought this book did a lot more interesting things with the structure. Plus, the style works with the themes the book attempts to explore. I could easily see particular readers giving up by the time they reach Page 20. This is going to be polarizing for a lot of readers. Interested to see who calls it brilliant, pretentious, fun or annoying. I’m curious to see if it advances for the Women’s Prize. The first half is about social media, highlighting everything we love and loathe about it. If you’re up to date on the Twitterverse, memes, GIFs, pop culture, political statements, and social movements, you’ll recognize some of the stuff Lockwood is referring to. This sort of puts a spotlight on how much social media has shaped our lives for better or worse. And how much time we spend or waste online. OOOOOF, ain’t that a relatable and relevant topic. The second half abruptly switches gears, shifting into a much more morose tone. It was a jarring switchup. But I believe this is here to juxtapose online life and real life; how hard it is for many of us to connect to real life issues these days because we’re so consumed with our online presence. Once we’re confronted with something real, devastatingly real, we don’t know how we’re supposed to act. We even wonder that dreaded question, “hmm, is okay to tweet about this?” https://www.instagram.com/p/CMm4O8jrz...

  20. 4 out of 5

    fran

    read in one sitting (profound endorsement) and snapped in half when the main character decides to read Marlon Brando's wikipedia page to the baby read in one sitting (profound endorsement) and snapped in half when the main character decides to read Marlon Brando's wikipedia page to the baby

  21. 5 out of 5

    ATG

    The novel, which I always believed was infinitely versatile as a form was late to respond adequately to the seism of the internet. Few tried to do anything more than incorporate the new technology into the backdrop, a digital mise en scene that was somehow always hollow. In recent years, however, that startling want has been provided for by writers like Patricia Lockwood who, in No One is Talking About This captures the feeling of now in a voice better, more accurate, and less affected than pret The novel, which I always believed was infinitely versatile as a form was late to respond adequately to the seism of the internet. Few tried to do anything more than incorporate the new technology into the backdrop, a digital mise en scene that was somehow always hollow. In recent years, however, that startling want has been provided for by writers like Patricia Lockwood who, in No One is Talking About This captures the feeling of now in a voice better, more accurate, and less affected than pretty much any of her peers with the exception of Jarett Kobek. The novel's central juxtaposition of life and life in tragedy casts modern existence in blinding relief, and even if we all know that after the final scene the narrator will simply replace her stolen phone, she will do so at least with the mystic knowledge gifted her by sorrow and by joy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    No One is Talking About This is genre-spanning debut from a formidably talented writer and poet who has stayed somewhat below the radar until now or has only been known for her social media mayhem. Incisive, original and frequently sardonic, this is a meditation on human existence both online and off as well as the juxtaposition of the fleeting impermanence of life and the seemingly limitless, unbounded nature of the internet. The first part of the book introduces an unnamed narrator and protago No One is Talking About This is genre-spanning debut from a formidably talented writer and poet who has stayed somewhat below the radar until now or has only been known for her social media mayhem. Incisive, original and frequently sardonic, this is a meditation on human existence both online and off as well as the juxtaposition of the fleeting impermanence of life and the seemingly limitless, unbounded nature of the internet. The first part of the book introduces an unnamed narrator and protagonist who has found notoriety by creating famous tweets and composing blog posts and has recently been elevated to prominence for such social media posts making a career out of it where she now travels around the world speaking on panels and meeting her adoring fans. The viral post that brought about this desirable lifestyle read — "Can a dog be twins”. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms "the portal," where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats--from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness--begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal's void. An avalanche of images, details, and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. "Are we in hell?" the people of the portal ask themselves. "Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?" In the second part, our protagonist is in Vienna, Austria for a conference when her mother pleads with her to come home to Ohio. Discovering that her heavily pregnant younger sister is having significant complications making the likelihood of her needing a late-term abortion high, due to the baby she's carrying suffering from a profound congenital disorder, she makes the long trip back to The United States. This is a captivating, compelling and unique read with some meaningful messages and social commentary with regard to our world today, our increasing use of the internet and the distinct differences that mark life online to off. It very eloquently highlights through Lockwood's utilisation of two separate parts of the book that there are profound differences between reality-based life and that as an internet user. However, the once vastness distinguishing them is now diminishing to where it often is troublesome to know the difference. It's a timely and topical tale with the first section written in short, sharp prose that give the feel of Instagram captions or text messages and the second in equally snappy bursts that feel like stolen moments taken between breaths. This is a book you experience rather than read and I must concede that it is quite unlike anything I have ever encountered before. An always insightful, sometimes irreverent and enticingly moving novel. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sigh and you'll find many moments where you'll be nodding your head in recognition. I have a funny feeling this is one I'll remember for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

  23. 4 out of 5

    idiomatic

    i am mostly interested in what happens to this in five-ten-or-more years once the references stop being immediately legible, and i am VERY excited about what this will transfigure into once its amber has crystallized and all that's left is patricia lockwood making sentences majestically. also, to absolutely be a bitch about it: jia tolentino wishes. i am mostly interested in what happens to this in five-ten-or-more years once the references stop being immediately legible, and i am VERY excited about what this will transfigure into once its amber has crystallized and all that's left is patricia lockwood making sentences majestically. also, to absolutely be a bitch about it: jia tolentino wishes.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I really wanted to like this more. There were strong moments in the middle, when the key happening of the novel came about. But the first half of the novel is a mess, unsure what it wants to do or say, felt a bit to focused on trendy ruminations about the internet and the jarring shift in tone and purpose leaves the reader a bit blindsided when it occurs. I haven't read Priestdaddy so I can't speak to Lockwood as an author in general, but the prose in No One Is Talking About This also felt a bit I really wanted to like this more. There were strong moments in the middle, when the key happening of the novel came about. But the first half of the novel is a mess, unsure what it wants to do or say, felt a bit to focused on trendy ruminations about the internet and the jarring shift in tone and purpose leaves the reader a bit blindsided when it occurs. I haven't read Priestdaddy so I can't speak to Lockwood as an author in general, but the prose in No One Is Talking About This also felt a bit generic and the tone a bit too "been there seen that". It's a shame because when Lockwood finally decides what this story is about she offers some pretty powerful and poignant passages that unfortunately couldn't save the book from it's clunk first act.

  25. 5 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    These two parts make an odd whole, but Lockwood brilliantly fuses the perceived important and the actually important in a relatable way. There are no names and barely a plot; the focus is elsewhere. The stream of consciousness cleverly illustrates our constant desire for entertainment. It’s fascinating, often hilarious, yet profoundly sad. Escapism at its best and worst. Social contagions are rampant, but life is so much deeper.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

    god. i can’t think of anything to say about this book that doesn’t feel hopelessly inadequate! but also i feel like i can’t not say ~something about it because of how deeply it affected me, so - the first half of no one is talking about this is about being massively internet poisoned and it’s agonisingly funny and harrowing and absurd all at the same time, and just like priestdaddy (‘flowers registered to him as very small bitches, far off in the distance’) it contains a frankly ridiculous number god. i can’t think of anything to say about this book that doesn’t feel hopelessly inadequate! but also i feel like i can’t not say ~something about it because of how deeply it affected me, so - the first half of no one is talking about this is about being massively internet poisoned and it’s agonisingly funny and harrowing and absurd all at the same time, and just like priestdaddy (‘flowers registered to him as very small bitches, far off in the distance’) it contains a frankly ridiculous number of lines that are just going to live in my brain forever (‘elective taint-lengthening surgery’). i said on twitter earlier today that patricia lockwood has this unparalleled ability to make me laugh hysterically one second and stare dead-eyed into the middle distance the next, and she spends so much of the build-up here doing exactly that, offering the singular kind of emotional whiplash which in itself also feels exactly like the experience of being on twitter 24/7 while the world burns around you. the novel’s form heightens that feeling too - it’s separated into fragments, each one not much longer than a tweet, which feels just as deliberate as the sideways references to memes lockwood assumes you’re already familiar with - but the story it crafts around you is so much More than that, which becomes obvious once you reach the second half and see the little filaments of narrative interconnectivity which take the novel’s two distinct halves and elevate them into something beautiful and tender and honestly fucking devastating. this is definitely a weird book in terms of both form and narrative structure but lockwood’s strange and ephemeral abstractions are incredible because they have a tendency to somehow feel more true than the direct words we already use to describe the things she is only ever indirect about (‘portal’ for ‘internet’ is the easiest and most obvious example here although it’s by no means the only, or even the most cogent). the second part made me cry more than i can remember any other book doing ever and i loved it entirely and i don’t think i can say anything about it that would in any way do it justice except to recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone who might see this review, so, if you’re reading this, yes it literally Is That Good thank you!!!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tyler Stevens

    There are few books that resonate so deeply and personally that they’re simultaneously hard to read and hard to put down. That transport you back to a place you’re not sure you want to go but that you never want to leave. This book was that for me. The first half of the book was good. It offered some witty, punchy one liners and insights about our internet lives and personas, about the perspective (or lack thereof) that a relentless online presence offers, of apt criticisms of modern America. I e There are few books that resonate so deeply and personally that they’re simultaneously hard to read and hard to put down. That transport you back to a place you’re not sure you want to go but that you never want to leave. This book was that for me. The first half of the book was good. It offered some witty, punchy one liners and insights about our internet lives and personas, about the perspective (or lack thereof) that a relentless online presence offers, of apt criticisms of modern America. I enjoyed the style, though I do disagree that it’s anything that monumental. It’s a unique and effective method, but I hope it’s not a trend. What makes this book so much better is the rest; the turn; the shift. Without giving too much of the book away, I’ll say this: last year my son was born 11 weeks early, completely as a surprise, on an otherwise normal Monday. My wife didn’t think she was in labor until we got to the hospital. About an hour and a half later we heard a weak cry before he was whisked away, intubated, and rushed to the NICU. We spent a long 54 days by his side, crying, laughing, hoping, despairing. This book brought all of that back. It took me back to the never ending beeping of oxygen monitors, the dread and terror when the levels dropped. It brought back the memories of milestones being met and hope shining through before a bad night brought us back down. The genius in this book is that it so well captures the anger of knowing that the world is still existing outside the walls of your own grief. I remember leaving to get lunch or run home for clothes and feeling pure fury that there was traffic - that no one else had any idea what was actually happening, no one else knew what mattered. I remember having to watch people ignore mask mandates and safety measures while I couldn’t kiss my son’s forehead and he couldn’t see our maskless faces for the entirety of our stay. Most days I had to stay away from Twitter and the the actions of “the dictator” because it was all just too much. We were so lucky to make it out with a happy, healthy baby boy who is thriving today. This book was a reminder that some are not. It’s a beautiful lesson that we all can be stronger than we ever thought. It’s a moving and touching tribute to the pure, joyous sanctity of new life. Most days it’s too difficult to remember those days under fluorescent lights, counting breaths, singing lullabies to a perfect baby hooked up to machines keeping him alive. It’s too hard to remember that we had to live in the minute because the future was too scary to contemplate. But sometimes it’s therapeutic and necessary to dive back in. This book is definitely not a perfect book, but it’s a necessary one and a good one.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    hard to write about, really; just a brilliant, glimmering marvel. reads like how the internet feels and then, after the turn, reads like how life feels. a beautiful joke, a glory, one I am very grateful to have. lockwood is undeniably That Binch. read it! is what i'm trying to say, read it now! hard to write about, really; just a brilliant, glimmering marvel. reads like how the internet feels and then, after the turn, reads like how life feels. a beautiful joke, a glory, one I am very grateful to have. lockwood is undeniably That Binch. read it! is what i'm trying to say, read it now!

  29. 5 out of 5

    AnnaLuce

    DNF This kind of writing style is my kryptonite. Also, for a novel promising to be urgent, No One Is Talking About This feels surprisingly dated.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    As soon as I saw the online hype surrounding Patricia Lockwood's debut novel I knew I was out of touch with the internet. I wasn't even aware of Patricia Lockwood. *epic fail* Of course, whenever someone is trending who everyone seems to love but I've not heard of or couldn't recall I did the thing you're meant to do and googled her. The abbreviated biographical understanding I got from the succinct biography provided on wikipedia was that she first gained fame on twitter (having successfully ba As soon as I saw the online hype surrounding Patricia Lockwood's debut novel I knew I was out of touch with the internet. I wasn't even aware of Patricia Lockwood. *epic fail* Of course, whenever someone is trending who everyone seems to love but I've not heard of or couldn't recall I did the thing you're meant to do and googled her. The abbreviated biographical understanding I got from the succinct biography provided on wikipedia was that she first gained fame on twitter (having successfully baited publications like The Paris Review into joining in jokey banter), published two collections of poems as well as the poem “Rape Joke” which went viral in 2013 and the memoir “Priestdaddy” in 2017 which the Times included on its list “The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years” and the Guardian named as one of its “100 Best Books of the 21st Century”. Oh, so I had heard of her! Or, at least, I saw mention of her on these lists and was intrigued but (like hundreds of other writers) haven't got around to reading her work yet. And so, I merrily plunged into reading Lockwood's “No One is Talking About This” because suddenly (at least within my online bubble) everyone seems to be talking about this debut novel. This is a story about an online personality who has become so famous on platforms like twitter for tweets such as “Can a dog be twins?” that she travels around the world giving talks and lectures. The text is divided into brief sections which give an impressionistic sense of her life and the people within it without ever providing a completely clear picture. It's an intriguing and surprisingly poignant style of narrative similar to Jenny Offill's novels. Here Lockwood uses it to show how the internet has modified her narrator's sense of self to become both individual and collective. It's also reflective of the distracted attention span that comes from scrolling online and how concepts can be compressed down into a crystallised pithy thoughts before being quickly abandoned for a new idea or trending discussion. This is a clever way of commenting upon the effects of the internet in the very structure of the way Lockwood tells her tale. Read my full review of No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood on LonesomeReader

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