Book Review: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

No One Is Talking About This…

About the Book:

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE 2021

A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal’. 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 increasing absurdity 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.

Irreverent and sincere, poignant and delightfully profane, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection from one of the most original voices of our time.


My Thoughts:

Patricia Lockwood is an American poet and writer, described by some as the ‘poet laureate of Twitter’. No One Is Talking About This is her debut novel, much awaited by her fans, particularly those who enjoyed her 2017 memoir, Priestdaddy. Stylistically, it’s an interesting novel, written using the narrative technique of stream of consciousness writing. At only 200 pages and split into two parts, it’s not a particularly long read, but it certainly makes its impact.

The protagonist, who remains unnamed, as do all of the characters, is some sort of online personality, famous for nothing other than a witty tweet that went viral. In some fantasy world that does not resemble the world I live in, she’s now flown all over the world to speak on…well, I don’t really know what she speaks on. This is a woman who spent three days photographing her period in motion over some brown pipe cleaners so she could post it. There’s nothing at all about her that I can relate to. Her life is spent online, she doesn’t have a job, she simply posts, scrolls, posts again, keeps on scrolling.

The narrative in the first part of the novel reads like a Twitter feed. There’s a whole lot of Twitterverse language and inside jokes that went right over my head; my Twitter feed is carefully curated to the bookish universe and I simply don’t spend enough time on there to get sucked into anything else. I didn’t particularly enjoy this first part, but I do see what the author was intending, and I can appreciate the way in which she has achieved this. As a poet, the writing is at times very, well, poetic. There is no doubting that Patricia Lockwood writes beautifully, but for me, this infusing of poetry into the narrative of this particular novel, didn’t really work for me. It confused the intent, I felt, and put me in a situation where I had to admit that I honestly had no idea what she was even talking about most of the time. In this first part, I felt the novel was too much, it tried too hard with the irony, the comedy, and the shock value, rendering it tiresome. I almost gave up.

The narrative in part two has a distinct shift in tone and intent. Still written in the same style, but the protagonist is no longer online, she has a family crisis, she abandons her former daily existence in preference to being present for her sister, who is experiencing an extremely heartbreaking situation. I liked the stream of consciousness technique in this part far more than the preceding one, the urgency of the situation was enhanced through the use of this narrative style. The author acknowledgement at the end of the novel reveals that No One Is Talking About This is not just fiction, but autobiographical fiction, an exorcism of grief perhaps, and written during the pandemic which to me, would have seemingly heightened the urgency within the author to purge, get it all out, and then see what rhythm the heart beats to after it’s all done.

What exactly is the thing that no one is talking about? I think there were quite a few things, none of them to do with how much time we spend online. We’re already always talking about how much time we all spend online whilst continuing to spend time online. What we’re not talking about is what happens in the second part of this novel. And that’s something urgent that we really should be talking about.

☕☕☕

Thanks is extended to Bloomsbury for providing me with a copy of No One Is Talking About This for review.


No One Is Talking About This
Published by Bloomsbury Australia
Released 6th April 2021

25 thoughts on “Book Review: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

  1. This sounds like it has a very specific, perhaps narrow audience in mind – as though it expects the reader to do much of the work, rather than getting a balance between that and letting us know what is going on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I suspect that I would respond to this book in much the same way as you… I just don’t understand the vacuousness of the Twitterverse that you describe, and if that sounds judgy, well, I think that this author probably wrote this book to try to wake people up to how they are wasting their lives…
    I don’t think life has to be full of blockbuster achievements, but it’s important to feel fulfilled, and by all accounts the Twitterverse that bears no relationship to how we bookish folks use Twitter, is full of sad and anxious people, tormented by abuse and shaming and sexism and body issues and all that. And that is what I just don’t understand. Why persist with something that makes them unhappy?
    So, obviously, I don’t need this book to wake me up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s certainly a side to Twitter that is completely foreign to me and I’m happy for it to remain so. Funnily enough though, I don’t think the novel is about a wake up call for Twitter, or even spending time online. In part two, the protagonist’s sister falls pregnant and the baby is seriously deformed with little chance of survival. She can’t even consider ending the pregnancy because of changed laws in some states of the US, which prevents termination and early induction even in medical cases. Doctors can be charged with murder. Not only does her sister have to give birth to a baby she is guaranteed to lose, she and her husband are then faced with being dropped from their medical insurance because of the high cost of maintaining their baby’s care to the insurance company. For the duration of the baby’s life, one parent, the mother usually, is forced to give up work as the baby has such high needs and is medically dependent so they can’t go to childcare. Financial ruin, paving the way to grief. That’s what no one is talking about. There is no support, just a lack of options.
      Hopefully anyone not wanting the novel spoiled refrains from reading this comment!

      Like

  3. I think I’ll have to listen to the audible on this one as it’s a six month library wait. Your great review inspires me so I hope the narrator is good.

    Jo

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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