No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood review – life in the Twittersphere

In her much-anticipated debut novel, the author of Priestdaddy seeks to skewer the horror and absurdity of being extremely online

In 2018, the American writer Patricia Lockwood published an essay entitled “How Do We Write Now?”. The piece was an attempt to reckon with the damage done to a creative mind by years of excessive exposure to the internet. Of her efforts to reclaim some mental space from the endless swirling absurdity of online life, she wrote: “If I look at a phone first thing the phone becomes my brain for the day […] If I open up Twitter and the first thing I see is the president’s weird bunched ass above a sand dune as he swings a golf club I am doomed. The ass will take up residence in my mind. It will install a gold toilet there.”

Lockwood’s debut novel, No One Is Talking About This, is in some ways a more substantial attempt to answer the question posed by the essay. Its nameless protagonist is, recognisably, a sparsely fictionalised embodiment of the same voice, with the same basic problems. Like Lockwood, she is a writer who came to be celebrated for her good tweets; she is invited to cities all over the world to speak about “the new communication, the new slipstream of information”. When we meet her, the tweet in question, “Can a dog be twins?”, has “recently reached the stage of penetration where teenagers posted the cry-face emoji at her”. (Though she initially came to prominence on Twitter, Lockwood’s renown is a lot more deserved than her fictional avatar’s: in 2013, her extraordinarily powerful poem “The Rape Joke” went viral, and in 2017 she published an acclaimed comic memoir, Priestdaddy.)

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