I can say this as a person whose formative years were spent while the internet went through its own. School projects became easier once my parents invested in a dial up service that came with its own signature sound. My first email address was all thanks to Hotmail. When someone told me about ‘myspace’ I thought for the longest while that it had something to do with rodents.
Nowadays, the internet looks nothing like those times. It’s matured somewhat (while you could argue its users have been stuck in some kind of arrested development, if you are one to judge spelling, validity of arguments, and the idea that memes entertain us for far longer than they probably should).
This is why I found the book No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood a brilliant read.
An unnamed woman is internet famous, with viral tweets that lead to adoring fans. Her entire existence is marked by the internet – ‘the portal’.
Part one is something akin to a post-modern-esque dissertation that sees the woman travel the portal and world on the coattails of her viral fame. Without getting to part two, you could hardly call this a plot. The thoughts are meandering and there’s no linear pathway of action. But it’s so rich and full of meaning.
Part two sees the remainder of the book detailing an urgent call for the woman to come home and spend time with her sister who carries then births a baby with a rare genetic disease. Suddenly, our protagonist is ripped from the online to IRL.
The woman tussles with the idea of goodness and love in life versus the eww-ness of what she’s seeing happening via the online community. And she wrestles with the existence of real life full of tangible experiences and feelings.
If there was ever a book cover designed with a millenial / Gen Z audience in mind, this is it. You just KNOW the email conversation going on in the marketing team was peppered by a series of gifs and memes and influencer references.
Again, we have two same same but different vibes going on with our international vs local covers.
Personally, the Escher-esque vibes of the US release just nail it for me. We’ve got rainbow colours, a cloudy sky (you’ll get a sense of their meanings in one poignant moment of the book) and a big ol’ ‘portal’ motif that bends reality as you follow its contours. Clever and sexy.
The Australian release is also very millenial-chique in its aesthetic, but comes a firm second place to its predecessor.
Hey poetry, meet prose. Short, staccato paragraphs of pondering emulate the structure of the Twitterverse. It’s incredibly intentional and effective.
This is a linguist’s love language, right here in novel form. All the meme-y, gif-like modulations we’ve made to our lexicon appear here in one form or another, and as someone who practically lives online as much as our unnamed protagonist, I can identify.
I’m well aware I’m the butt of the joke but I love that for me.
This is a book that I think will divide people. Personally, I found it quite brilliant.
Lockwood’s prose flirts with a poetic structure. Those short vignettes, like we’re used to seeing online, carry massive thoughts that pierce through the ether and straight into my guts.
I loved her ideas that melted into meandering strings of thought and form a cohesive illustration of the absurdity of the online world.
The writing is irreverent, humorous, insightful and candid.
Lockwood’s book is a love letter to and a warning about internet all in one bundle. The internet is an abstract place for the mind yo escape, but also a vortex that can drain us of real experiences that come from being very much alive.
Book Club Questions
Narrative structure plays a huge part of this book, especially in part one. Did it resonate with you?
Do you see yourself in ‘the woman’ at all? Do you like her character?
What would you consider your most viral social media post?
This unnamed protagonist finds herself trying to remove the lure of the portal from her life. Enter the ‘dictionary safe’. What do you think of this moment and can you relate? How do you think society is faring with our attachment to scrolling?
The results of the 2016 election followed by a pandemic saw many habits change and new ones form. One being ‘doomscrolling’. Have you found yourself doing something similar and what have your found is the perfect antidote to not-so-healthy online behaviours?
What are some elements of modern life that you wouldn’t go without?
Social media has forever changed the way we talk, interact, follow politics and even add to our wardrobe. Everything has become virtual. Which is why part two of this book is so visceral, to some degree. What do you imagine happens in the future for our character — and for you?
What is your favourite meme?
For those playing at home, LitHub created a post that collated all the references for you in one handy bundle. You’re welcome.
Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.