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

Synopsis

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.

Review

I very rarely read a book I dislike so much to start with that then ends up totally redeeming itself, like this one did.

This is split into two parts, part one being the “online” part that reads like a very chaotic Twitter timeline, with snippets of stories and snapshots of random ~stuff~ and memes. The second part is the “real life” part that felt much more coherent. It surprised me with how poignant and moving it became. Having read it all now, I understand the point of part one, however I feel like maybe it could have connected to the story of part two just a little bit better so it wasn’t so hard to read initially.

Now I’m no book analyst so don’t take my word for what I thought this book was about but here’s how I saw it:

We live a life online where so much happens, where news and big events come and go in the space of days, even hours, where we can almost say whatever we want and find a community who agree with us. We spend endless hours scrolling through junk on the web (“the portal”) but does it ever really mean anything much to us?

I think this was about finding the separation of the online world and the real world when we’re already so far gone into the online world. How sometimes we experience big things in real life and all we want is for time to slow down, to exist in a completely different universe and completely different kind of time to our online lives. And that when something affects you so deeply, it can make you realise that everything you’ve done as your online self matters so much less than you ever realised. Nothing can be the same after what you’ve just experienced.

This is a hard read in the first half due to it’s almost incoherence and it’s a hard read in the second half as it deals with traumatic things. However, this ended up being a much more rewarding read than I initially believed it would be and I’m glad I stuck with it. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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