No One Is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood
Not by design, but I found myself co-reading Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections - published in 2010 two years before her death at 71 - with Patricia Lockwood’s 2021 fiction debut No One Is Talking About This. I was reading Ephron on my Kindle, a 99p buy, and listening to Lockwood on Audible, something I’m still getting used to: beware the dull or otherwise shoddy narrator.
This turned out to be felicitous. Both comment on contemporary internet culture. Ephron on the more general; email, how to monetise content, how we have become enslaved to the web instead of achieving the freedom we hoped for. When she wrote the film You’ve Got Mail in 1998, very few of the rest of us knew how big online love would become (me included and I found a husband there).
Lockwood, who became famous, or known, for being well known online, takes on the more specific and also unwieldy shit balloon of how internet culture has fucked us all up - who we are and how we communicate and what we care about or believe matters - if we’re people who are often or mostly online, that is. Ephron had the luck to grow up IRL.
I’m having mixed feelings about my dalliance with Audible. I am getting through more, that’s certain. But you don’t know until you’re throat-deep in a book whether it would suit you better in print or not. But this pair worked a dream. The Lockwood is only four-ish hours and I went back for another listen as soon as I finished.
I had heard people complain about the first part of the book, essentially a collection of posts, thoughts and comments which have been seen or read or written by the protagonist online. Together they plunge us into her head and the world she lives in, and I found it a clever and effective way to draw her character. How she chooses and reacts to every word, meme or otherwise viral explosion is what makes her. She is both wryly observant of this and fully paid up.
For the second part, Real Life comes and bites her on the ass in the most startlingly REAL way. She has no choice but to live this. It is heinous. And brilliant. And yet, I wonder still why everyone, or anyone, didn’t get the first part. Are they the people who need plot?
There are many more, but here are two of my favourite quotes:
“How strange to live in a country where someone can say ‘the massacre’ and you don’t have to ask which one.”
You can listen to Audible for free for 30 days. But if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life wandering around plugged in and then rewinding because your dog ran off and you missed a bit like me, just buy the book.