Book Review: ‘No-one Is Talking About This’

By: 
Mary Brennan

Whether you read, as Rumaan Alan confesses he does, “To get out of my own life, which is boring.” Or, because you have a six-hour wait in an overcrowded airport lounge on a wet Sunday afternoon, here is a “must” read for you.

“Why? You ask reasonably.

Because this particular book deals with themes of great importance to contemporary audiences.

Furthermore, the themes are presented with a unique-style narrative, oddball imagery and an affinity for the absurd.

Published in 2021, the book is titled, “No-one Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood, an American poet, essayist and novelist. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Lockwood is famous in social media circles for her extraordinary range of subjects and the vitality of her unconventional language and style, which have made for her a world-wide, large and devoted Twitter fandom.

She is a regular contributor to The London Review of books and received the Dylan Thomas Award for her work.

The book is a genre-bending work, which is part memoir, part elegiac remembrance of her baby niece’s life and death.

In the first part the author explores our subjugation to, and the incredible influence of, the internet, which controls completely our daily lives and time. We spend hours scrolling through it, endlessly distracted from all other aspects of our daily lives.

She posits the question: What does it do to our brains? She examines the effects of that relationship “where the mind is diluted by the insanity of online discourse.” She asks what so many of us wonder about: Is any of it real? “Real to whom?” asks Lockwood’s narrator.

In elegant prose, the author leads us through the complexity of the self and our social world struggle to survive in the present using the language and logic of the internet, which she portrays as a character called The Portal – an apt metaphor for our journey. “There is need for a new kind of connection,” she opines in our world, which has become so disconnected.

The exploration is accomplished in language stylistically appropriate to Twitter users. It appears in brief, one to four sentence increments.

Everything changes dramatically and grammatically in the book’s second part. There, the author learns heartbreaking news.

Her sister’s baby has been diagnosed with In-vitro Proteus Syndrome, a fatal disease.

It is most commonly remembered for the historical case of a male born with it who became known as The Elephant Man.

The head of the fetus is too big, therefore, the child will not survive the birth. Survival of infancy is even more unlikely.

Against all odds, the child is born and transforms the life of the author who becomes obsessed with the baby in very unexpected ways. She falls in love with her beauty and learns over time the realities to be faced – loving what must die.

The narrator, in part one, learns how The Portal may break your brain, but in, part two, she learns what can break your heart. The difference, of course, is a matter of choice. The choice of entering the Portal is ours to make. Love, often, is not a matter of choice. The narrator learns so much from her relationship with the grief of knowing the baby that we can say it’s not a tragedy.

If we have difficulty in understanding this transformation, we can, perhaps take refuge in a quote from Blaise Pascal who reminds us that “The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.”

If you’re looking for something lighter after this, read Priest Daddy by the same author.

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