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What can the modern novel tell us about life in the age of the internet? | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Patricia Lockwood and Lauren Oyler’s books examine the effect of grief on our real and online presences

These days, when I log on to Twitter, I increasingly find myself at a loss for words. I’m a writer and I’ve never been one to fear the tyranny of the white page. But that little blank box at the top of my news feed, the one that asks: “What’s happening?” – it gives me writer’s block. In other forms, the words are pouring out of me because what isn’t happening at the moment? But online, I’m paralysed. What is the point? I think. What is the fucking point?

This month, two novels confronting that question are released: Fake Accounts, by the critic Lauren Oyler, and No One Is Talking About This, by the writer and poet Patricia Lockwood. Both women are of broadly the same age as me, meaning they can also remember life before the internet. “If we value authenticity it’s because we’ve been bombarded since our impressionable preteen years with fakery but at the same time are uniquely able to recognise, because of the unspoiled period that stretched from our birth to the moment our parents had the screeching dial-up installed, the ways in which we casually commit fakery ourselves,” Oyler’s protagonist says.

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