Ms. Lockwood has a clear appreciation of what it means to be both of the internet and a witness to it. This tension—between the winking cynicism of social media and the seriousness of poetry; the alluring groupthink of online writing and the need to step outside it—is the main subject of her impressive debut novel ... This book is arranged as a list of fragmented scenes and observations, almost like poems, more thematic than linear. The effect, which should be familiar to readers of Maggie Nelson and Jenny Offill, here feels somewhat like a social-media feed in which big ideas and irreverent jokes jockey for (often diminishing margins of) attention ... Ms. Lockwood is a sharp and often funny social critic. She writes wisely of the emotionally labile landscape of the internet ... Ms. Lockwood is also good at capturing how the arch, performative, hyper-aware language of the internet can insidiously infiltrate how people act in real life ... Unlike Ms. Lockwood’s memoir, which she played fairly straight and often for laughs, the language here is heightened and poetic. This oblique approach sometimes compromises clarity, and the namelessness of the characters can get confusing. But many of her images are evocative and often beautiful ... More inventive than lapidary, Ms. Lockwood’s style is artful without being precious ... With this slim, bifurcated novel, Ms. Lockwood pulls off something unexpected. The two halves often feel like two different books, but the juxtaposition has a stealthy power. What begins as an ironical story about irony becomes an intimate and moving portrait of love and grief. In this way, a novel that had been toying with the digital surface of modern life finds the tender heart pumping away beneath it all.
Lockwood is a modern word witch, her writing splendid and sordid by turns. Her prose rambles from animal gags to dirty talk to infinitely beautiful meditations on the nature of perception that deflate and turn absurd before they can turn philosophical. She has honed her craft on the internet, mainly on Twitter ... No One Is Talking About This is, in part, a rebuttal to this vision of the internet as enabling a mean and cramped sort of art. The chief virtue of the novel is how it transforms all that is ugly and cheap about online culture — the obsession with junk media; the fragmentary and jerked presentation of content; the mockery, the snark; the postures, the polemics — into an experience of sublimity ... She is a restless narrator, who thinks in beautiful, witty, tidy paragraphs. She shifts between pronouns and points of view the way one might cycle between tabs late at night, half bored, half elated ... There is the 'you,' a direct message to the reader, at times solicitous, at times accusatory ... She emerges as a portal for the portal’s uncanny consciousness, churning individual thoughts into tweets, tweets into memes, memes back into the language of thought, until what belongs to me and what belongs to you can no longer be discerned amid this mute, incessant chatter ... Here is the novel’s secondary virtue: its insistence that the shadow forms of living and thinking — the life led online amid the buzz of the hive mind; the life that persists after death — are, for all their vaporous mystery, no less real than the life led by you or me ... For all the local beauty and humor of No One Is Talking About This, it does not feel like a good novel, exactly, because it does not feel like a novel at all.
This is the experience—snort-laughter mixed with bewilderment at the absolute strangeness of the world in which I participate—that I tend to have when reading Patricia Lockwood, the poet turned memoirist and London Review of Books essayist who has now published her first novel ... The novel follows a protagonist who is 'extremely online,' a genius of the 'portal,' as the internet is called here, and naturally adept at the cleverness and absurdity of social-media exchange. She has become famous for it. Recently, she has gained worldwide recognition for a post that says, in its entirety, 'Can a dog be twins?' Her cat’s name is Dr. Butthole. She travels the world, invited to speak about the portal—both as an interpreter of its patterns and as a performer of its bizarre and hilarious argot ... What happens to a mind that has enthusiastically joined a worldwide Mind, yet can still occasionally see—if only in flashes—the perversity of the exercise? ... This kind of weird, slyly sophisticated humor, and a deep commitment to the profane as a tool for revelation and critique, are hallmarks of Lockwood’s style ... Lockwood’s affinity for the surreal, for baroque wit, for the sexually weird, for the inane and shocking has made her one of the most interesting writers of the past 10 years. It has also made her a master of Twitter ... it’s largely made up of brief, one-to-four-sentence increments, approximately tweet-length, rendered in super-close third person. These seem to have little relation to one another chronologically, and they don’t proceed logically. Instead, they are sporadic and self-contained: a joke, a story, a note, a question, a pithy comment. They pass the way social-media feeds pass ... The second half of the book, in which the narrator is newly deranged by the immovable reality of loving what must die—in addition to being deranged by the portal, which feels, by contrast, both eternal and editable—is electric with tenderness. Lockwood’s genius for irony is matched by the radiance of her reverence, when she lets it show ... Unusually for me, I wept through parts of this book, but in the best, beautiful-sad-music way—a grand success, the aliens would say.
The figurative pizzazz of Lockwood’s language lends strange beauty to her portrait of an all-too-recognisable world ... There’s a hint of hair shirt here, for sure, but it’s redeemed by Lockwood’s nose for juggling contradictory moods: just as Rape Joke targeted rape jokes without renouncing comedy, the internet keeps on being the prism through which we experience the gut-plummeting sadness at the novel’s core ... Prior generations of literary superstars worried that world events had the capacity to make their novels look flat-footed; Lockwood’s cohort probably faces stiffer competition from its own social media shadow ... for all its virtues, this richly tragicomic debut never quite shakes the sense that you could just as well drink the author’s gleefully surreal wit straight from the tap.
... short, infuriating and very entertaining ... As Patricia Lockwood piles up allusions to Twitter memes and in-jokes about that social media site, only two reactions are possible: the not-online will feel total and healthy incomprehension, but the too-online will know that they are in the company of a kindred spirit ... So there is no point complaining about this novel’s disjointedness (it’s written as a series of short, sequential vignettes), its precocious and knowing tone, its insular references to the world of the internet. If you understand these things well enough, you belong to the world of the novel, and any annoyance rebounds on yourself ... full of sharp, funny observations about life in 'the portal', as Twitter is referred to throughout ... this is a terrible thing to say about fiction drawing on a personal tragedy — the baby feels like a sentimental device. Loving such a child is often (and I’m drawing on someone else’s personal tragedy here) shatteringly painful, but in the novel the baby is a visitation from a wiser sphere, 'a little Golden Girl who had lived a hundred years, who stared out . . . with the scepticism that came from having seen everything' ... The child fortuitously resets the narrator’s dysfunctional relationship with the internet. If I find that too much, perhaps I’m not after all the exact same amount of online as Lockwood.
... a glowing object that somehow replicates and beautifies the experience of being on the internet (one of her ongoing topics) while also functioning as a carefully plotted story ... What follows is profound … it’s enjoyable … it’s profoundly enjoyable ... Lockwood reminds me a lot of Nabokov — less in style than in attitude, one of extraordinary receptivity to the gifts, sorrows, and bloopers of existence. What Lockwood lacks in Nabokov’s fastidiousness she makes up for in butt jokes.
Now Lockwood has put that strength into her first novel, No One is Talking About This, which leaves no doubt that she still takes her literary vocation seriously. It's another attention-grabbing mind-blower which toggles between irony and sincerity, sweetness and blight ... Lockwood deftly captures a life lived predominantly online ... This portrait of a disturbing world where the center will not hold is a tour de force that recalls Joan Didion's portrait of the dissolute 1960s drug culture of Haight-Ashbury in her seminal essay, 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' ... Lockwood is a master of sweeping, eminently quotable proclamations that fearlessly aim to encapsulate whole movements and eras ... It's a testament to her skills as a rare writer who can navigate both sleaze and cheese, jokey tweets and surprising earnestness, that we not only buy her character's emotional epiphany but are moved by it ... Of course, people will be talking about this meaty book, and about the questions Lockwood raises about what a human being is, what a brain is, and most important, what really matters.
... brilliant ... The short sections that pour across these pages — most not much longer than a couple of tweets — offer a tour of our collective consciousness, the great cacophony of images and voices that catch the virtual world’s attention ... You can hear in these moments Lockwood’s experience as a poet. She’s a master of startling concision when highlighting the absurdities we’ve grown too lazy to notice ... Despite her novel’s wit, there’s something almost brutal about the relentless way Lockwood draws us, eyes pried open, through the social media morass we’ve grown accustomed to: Steeped in the unfiltered flow of manicure advice, torture videos, ferret selfies, traffic accidents, birthday-cake disasters and tornado sightings, we float in a state of blasé disregard and treacly sentimentality, knowing everything and nothing ... the story’s second half may be too much for some readers. It’s a vertiginous experience, gorgeously rendered but utterly devastating. I rattled around the house for days afterwards, shattered but grateful for the reminder that the ephemeral world we’ve constructed online is a shadow compared to the pain and affection we’re blessed to experience in real life.
While 300-odd pages spent swimming around in Lockwood's satirical Twitter-verse would be a delight, the book pulls a sharp U-turn partway through when tragedy rips the protagonist out from the safe meaninglessness of the portal and back into the 'real' world ... Unlike some cautionary tales that take an overly simplistic view of social media use as inherently 'bad' or narcissistic, Lockwood grapples with its nuances from the viewpoint of someone who deeply understands its specific language and community. Teasing out the bizarre nature of a life performed on Twitter with comedy and startling incisiveness, readers will surely be talking about Lockwood's No One Is Talking About This for years to come.
No One Is Talking About This cleaves into two distinct parts. In the first, the unnamed protagonist – propelled to internet fame after tweeting “Can a dog be twins?” – meets fans on an international speaking tour. Two text messages from her mother cut the trip short ... Part two of No One Is Talking About This explores what happens when corporeal realities come to the fore ... The book lacks the visual aid of the slideshow accompanying the lecture and incorporated online in the London Review. The jokes struggle to land on their own and, alas, already feel dated ... By design, the first half of No One Is Talking About This recreates the sensation of too much time scrolling ... So, does the change of tack in the second half offer more sustenance? The baby’s caretaking is meant to be in sharp contrast to what Lockwood calls 'the portal', although the story continues to be told in fragments ... Here the humour feels not brave but adolescent: on seeing her mother after receiving the devastating news, the protagonist’s first thought is that the last maternal text contained the spurting three droplets emoji ... While the baby’s world is rendered in detail, the characters of the baby’s parents and the shape of their grief remain impressionistic.
Lockwood’s humor, considerable throughout, becomes even more potent in the second half. The quaking, manic pulse of it beats within the family’s ordeal, leaving little air between the comedic and the poignant ... So much of the book is concerned with how it feels to be extremely online and how it feels when 'real life' takes one away from the internet, which makes Lockwood’s use of metaphor especially effective here. As in her poems and her memoir, Lockwood’s language remains colorful, absurd, ribald, transcendent. She may begin a sentence with a hushed lyricism, then pierce it with internet slang and coarse usage. In her visceral, often cartoonish prose, Lockwood does not take for granted that so much of what happens on the internet—the mimicry, the irony, the posturing—is merely the way things must go. Despite how often the book appears to be a 'snapshot' of the internet during the Trump years, Lockwood isn’t taking a photograph; she’s bending reality back to its own strangeness ... No book so dedicated to the specifics of social media will ever feel entirely 'current' to its reader ... The endless scroll is slippery and swift. No One Is Talking About This plants a flag amid rushing waters ... It can’t be overstated how daring Lockwood is in these passages. She risks the maudlin, the sentimental, the far-too-much. So many writers fail with far safer material. Lockwood bridges the high and the low, the profane and the holy, Garfield and a baby having a seizure ... With this novel, Lockwood shows what can happen when you open the door wide and let everything in.
... the first great internet novel ... a flat-out masterpiece and certainly the best novel I’ve ever read about the internet. Like Priestdaddy, it’s dense with oddball imagery and outrageous conceits. But unlike her memoir, it contains little in the way of character exposition. You will need a passing familiarity with social media and meme culture to fully understand it – but that doesn’t mean it’s of marginal interest. No doubt Moby-Dick is more lively if you have a deep knowledge of 19th century whaling lore, but it’s not a prerequisite. Once you accept that this is a novel with a different kind of narrative procedure, it’s a pleasure to crawl into Lockwood’s strange brain .... What might have become a precious or sentimental story is transformed by Lockwood’s confounding imagery ... The jumble of whimsy and outrage captures the uneasy transition from what Lockwood remembers as a 'place of play' to one of Trump-era panic and paranoia ... It would be a mistake to imagine this novel is one long in-joke for media liberals on Twitter. She casts her net far wider, realising that the memes she is exposed to are very different to those that her brother sees ... Lockwood is brilliant at drawing out the portal’s paradoxes, its disconcerting intimacy but also its distancing effects ... succulent, witty and imaginative ... a novel that vibrates with feeling, not just about the intense bond the protagonist develops with her baby niece – that would be too easy – but also her joyful communion with the internet. She may be excruciatingly honest about its problems but she’s not judgemental. She knows that the voice she has used to soothe the baby is also the same voice she uses to tour the world, talking about her web-based fame.
But No One Is Talking About This is not written in the way the portal writes. It is about the internet but not of it; it describes the internet without replicating it. It is a poetic examination of what it means to exist within that huge and seething mind ... Lockwood’s language is dense and lovely as a Cezanne painting, always, but surely it is easier to understand what you are looking at when you know which Cezanne brush strokes are indicating mountains and which ones are indicating houses. How do you comprehend a stream of communal consciousness if you have never been a part of that consciousness? ... She goes off the portal, 'where everything was happening except for this.' She devotes herself instead to the baby, whom she finds overwhelmingly beautiful, and Lockwood’s prose here becomes so tender that you have to read it delicately, touching it with only one finger of your mind, so as not to bruise it ... But No One Is Talking About This only ever flirts with religious awe, never making those parallels explicit. And it seems to dare the reader to experience the baby’s life as cheap sentiment: Go ahead, it seems to suggest, try to take an ironic distance here. Try to experience this plot as manipulative ... As I read the second half of No One Is Talking About This, I could feel my brain-poisoning urging me toward lazy cynicism, toward the detached, sardonic skepticism that animates Twitter Voice. But Lockwood’s language was so clear, so tender, so radiant that I could not bear to read her book cruelly. Doing so would be a betrayal of something raw and vulnerable.
No One Is Talking About This is unnervingly not hyperbolic in Lockwood’s lyric, humorous rendering of this familiar world ... Often the examples Lockwood includes in No One Is Talking About This are recognizable as directly lifted from our world, like the Folgers incest commercial and the 'Charlie bit my finger' video. Recognizing these inclusions makes us complicit in the portal, emphasizing just how public this space really is and forcing us to question the preciousness of our time in comparison to what gems the instant may bring ... Though the narrator is primarily obsessed with the portal, Lockwood makes clear in moments like this one that the portal is a social media platform, not the internet at large. The narrator’s reliance on the internet for instant delivery of information—like Proteus syndrome—is separate from her relationship with the portal, which is entertaining (and consuming) but lacks purpose.
Her aim is, in some ways, traditional: to give voice to that which escapes sublimation, to understand the wounds incurred by simply being alive ... The demented one-liners in No One are worthy of inspirational bathroom posters, and the home truths are sharp enough that reading them even once stings. In a book that isn’t largely about animals or sex—topics of great import for Lockwood—there are still cats named Dr. Butthole and dildos with veins. When experience presents a dull beige mass, Lockwood pushes her brain into it and tosses out the profile of a hornet with abs ... No One is a very funny book about a baby who dies ... Whether or not Lockwood has been fused with the internet, she has mastered the act of experience and immediate reflection, a two-step she executes as swiftly as refreshing her browser.
The third-person narration describes the protagonist’s world in surrealist, deliberately estranging terms—the internet is 'the portal,' for example—and the first half of the novel unfolds as a series of airy musings on what it’s like to spend your days scrolling through feed after feed. Because it’s written by Lockwood, the language is galloping and fun, although I suspect readers unfamiliar with meme culture will find it all but impossible to parse ... Playfulness gilds each of these observations, but by the end of the book’s first half, I wondered what it could possibly have left to say. The narrator’s bawdy, excitable reveries were amusing enough, and the section floated along on its absurdist sentence-level strengths—it is fun to read—but the floaty quality drifted into weightlessness. How long could she riff about the inherent absurdity of the internet, exactly? ... But I forgot: Lockwood’s a poet, and if there’s one thing poets see as essential, it’s a turn ... This second half simultaneously builds on and knocks down what came before it. As it unfolds, the novel leaps from clever to moving, accumulating the gravity its first half sorely lacked; there are humans who care for one another sitting in the same room, there is the threat of loss, there are, finally, stakes.
Lockwood’s observations of the affective reality of the portal, the skittering triviality of its denizens, is both ardent and appalled. Her evocations of this collective consciousness often achieve a nice balance of poetic intensity and analytical force ... Lockwood is an incontrovertibly gifted writer. Her sentences are routinely surprising, her voice a startling agglomeration of poetic clarity and hectic comedy. But weirdly enough, given the comic gifts on display in Priestdaddy, it’s that hectic quality that causes problems ... it does seem, particularly in its first half, too fixated on getting jokes over the line, and too pleased with itself for having done so. There is an airlessness that reminded me of being in the presence of a Known Wit, intent on living up to their reputation by keeping the jests coming at all costs ... the fragmentary lyricism is overpowered by an anxiously comedic super-ego, as though the Family Guy writers room had done a script punch-up on Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet. The book also has a related problem: far too much of it, to put it bluntly, amounts to lyrical descriptions of memes ... if you’re laughing with her as rarely as I was, that premise feels flawed ... Eventually, the anxious comedy gives way to a richer and more complex amalgamation of grief and beauty ... there are nonetheless moments of real poignancy, as she describes her niece’s little life, and the heartbreak of her condition. Here, at last, profound connections are made: between a thwarted consciousness and the world, between Lockwood’s talent and her subject, and between the novel and its readers—this one, at any rate.
Lockwood expertly replicates the experience of sifting through disparate moments on Instagram, TikTok or Twitter, past memes that deliberately move your eye around an image to hit the joke at just the right time. By the end of part one, the reader is exhausted by the sheer volume of hot takes ... No One Is Talking About This takes us on a complex journey that ends with a simple moral: real life matters more. After 100 pages of quippy, exasperating irony the reader craves earnestness and then earns it. The question that lingers, though, is: how long until we are inevitably sucked back in?
... the novel, especially in its first half, gives you the sense of scrolling through a very smart, very online person’s feed. Many of the bits kill ... Many of Lockwood’s bits, though, do more serious work. She’s interested in how complexity, of the self and the social world, struggles to survive in the portal ... No One Is Talking About This is a great Twitter novel because it gives us the twitchy pleasures of social media while taking advantage of the ethical and formal demands of the novel. That little baby, young as she is, knows what it’s like to encounter a true work of art: the mercury of all things begins trembling together.
Lockwood expects her reader to work hard. The novel is all about the importance of being in the know, and it won’t work unless we are prepared to join in, parsing the anecdotes. There is something very winning about Lockwood’s abundant faith not only that we can but that we will follow her. She jollies us along, leading us through the language and styles of ever more evolved platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), without explicitly naming any of them. She trusts us to keep up to speed, to catch meaning off the current vectors and to keep it circulating ... a hybrid beast: it is an arch descendant of Austen’s socio-literary style—a novel of observation, crossed with a memoir of a family crisis, and written as a prose poem, steeped in metaphor ... This account of a descent through the circles of Internet hell is well done. If it weren’t for the fact that the aim of 'funnier' has been so definitively undercut by the narrator’s exhausting search for something new and funny with which to feed the portal, we could call it very funny indeed. But it also feels a bit too easy ... Lockwood doesn’t attempt to resolve these contradictions. She isn’t interested in analysis but in registering experience as it unfolds. If, as readers, we are tempted to object that the opposition between creative life and murderous dogma is too neat, we are brought up short by the fact that the baby is real. And we should not be surprised by the aura of sanctity that surrounds the baby. The transcendent experience of the body, in sex, or pain, or love, has always been Lockwood’s subject. All along she has been interested in reaching the thing beyond words, that words can only point to. To that extent she is a religious writer ... Lockwood teeters on the edge of sentimentalism in her descriptions of suffering bodies, and she even repurposes a language of everyday 'holiness' in which rituals of kindness and care are suffused with grace. But the hurt bodies are always a little too strange, a little too metaphoric, for us to read the sentiment entirely straight. The baby is uniqueness and heart and love, but she also stands for those things. It’s a balance between being and knowing that Lockwood pulls off brilliantly with a seriously weird subplot involving a little dog ... The portal and the baby halves of the novel are not resolved, but speak to and across each other rather like poems in a densely wrought collection. There are readers who will find this lack of resolution frustrating, but it feels a bit like real life to me.
Lockwood gets it right, mimicking the medium while shrewdly parodying its ethos ... The rampant political anxiety and grandstanding; the fear of judgment and social embarrassment (and the keen pleasure of doing the judging); above all, the unstable, seductive 'we' with its exquisite promise of togetherness: Lockwood has it all down, and she is funny about it, too. God, is she funny! ... Lockwood’s conceit is smart, her prose original, hugely entertaining and witty ... Lockwood’s writing grows radiant, as if the depiction of this little creature gives her the profoundest joy. What is especially moving is that this is not some parable about a mother’s mystical devotion; it is a story, simply, about love, selfless and delighted ... it isn’t, either, a story with an easy moral for us to take home, How I Quit the Internet for Good. The same portal will be waiting for the protagonist when she’s ready to return to it; the difference will be private, internal, burrowed in the secret place where only novels go.
Lockwood splits her novel down its center but never severs the connection between the two parts, like strands of river knotted at the same source. She says goodbye, but nothing leaves ... I’m not sure what reading this book would be like if I didn’t understand most of the references. But, of course, this is what novels do: I can read about a place I have never been, while others are reading about their hometown. The words are the same, and what they mean is different ... Writing about being online is a bit like writing about reading a novel, in the sense that it is language in concentric circles ... Lockwood not only follows the circles out to their youngest brim, she also returns to the point of contact that set them in motion, and then she pushes it further: not the ax, but the seed. I think she pulls it off partly because she is not trying to write about what the internet is or does, but how it feels. She has managed to write a book about how it feels to be online ... Ultimately, No One Is Talking About This is a stunning record of the hollows and wonders of language itself ... Chaos begets chaos, which somehow will beget coherence.
Composed of short, fragmentary paragraphs, bite-sized cultural observations, and jokes cloaked in multiple layers of irony, No One is Talking About This is a novel about social media that replicates its chaotic form, granting readers access to the inner mind of someone who is very online ... In a cultural moment that almost defies satire in its own self-evident absurdity, No One is Talking About This doesn’t present as parody. Written in the suffocating, disjointed prose of social media, Lockwood’s novel evokes the sensation of scrolling as it reads: moving from inane observation to obnoxious joke to occasional gem of social commentary ... No One is Talking About This does not end the way the trajectory of the first half of the novel might suggest. There is no real meditation on the emotional or interpersonal effects of the social media environment she helped to create. Instead, the contrast of the novel is meant to speak for itself by presenting two alternate styles of living, neither of them comfortable, but one infinitely more human than the other.
The [internet's] new mental weather is her great subject, and her descriptions of it in this book are highly evocative ... characteristic layering of registers ... Lockwood pulls us down a strange and wonderful rabbit hole[.]
... deeply felt ... dazzling, devastatingly funny and sharply observed ... also [a] case study in how difficult it is to write fiction that gives us real insight into our brain-parasite-like relationship with social media without giving us the same bone-deep sense of self-loathing and futility as six hours of scrolling Twitter ... It’s as if [Lockwood] has zoomed in so tightly on a loved one’s face that it looks like an alien landscape; the extreme close-up creates a perceptual distance. The present looks so bizarre and futuristic that it’s almost impenetrable. By more literally replicating the form of the internet, the novel ends up less closely resembling the emotional experience of being online...stripping away the connective tissue of anxious analysis. Instead, like a child entering the world, we’re presented the sludge of memes and news briefs with a sense of almost mystical wonder ... there’s a visceral sense of the genuine feeling underlying the performance — unironic emotion, raw and unself-conscious, that emerges in response to a baby’s laugh or a loved one’s illness ... the bright tang of joy and grief and hilarity in Lockwood’s writing overwhelms. Something does fall between the cracks of the fragments, though: an understanding of how the internet shapes us, beyond the immediate stimulation and the cultural references. It’s a kaleidoscopic flurry, a snowdrift of feelings and references, and the logic of it is largely up to us to decipher — unless we simply wish to lie back and let the sentences fall on our tongues and eyelashes.
Whereas many of us post nearly all the time, Lockwood elevates it to an art ... The novel’s main disjuncture is between the comic — Lockwood’s voice is something like Dada Dorothy Parker — and exquisite, modernist style: the book’s epigraph comes from Mayakovsky, but we can find everyone from Joyce to Woolf to Faulkner in Lockwood’s intricate prose. Despite the fact that she’s mastered their style, Lockwood has little reverence for these literary heavyweights ... This dazzling array of minor human failures reads like a Whitmanian catalog for America in decline ... some of the novel’s most heartbreakingly intense moments arise when Lockwood’s comedy insists on its own presence despite its being out of place ... Lockwood combines two ways of engaging with the world that we often hold separate. Across her career, Lockwood has refused this separation, asserting that these contradictory juxtapositions are fundamental to language, humor, communication, and collectivity. It is only through revealing the moments of empathy in our jokes as well as the ridiculousness of our most heartbreaking experiences that we can glimpse the breadth of life both in and out of the portal.
... either a work of genius or an exasperating endurance trial. Never before has a novel left me so internally polarized. Should I revel in its cathartic eventual escape from social media, or pan it for wallowing so, so long in the very online? I am, as a famously wounded suitor once put it, half agony, half hope ... You read it the way you scan social media, hopping from one thought to another; if Lockwood could have delivered her manuscript in a scrolling format, I think she might have ... in part a micro-history of mid-2010s Twitter ... [Lockwood] succeeds brilliantly in reflecting the online experience, but at a cost: The anecdotes that start out as wry or clever eventually turn overly punchy, like a friend who forgot to drink water between shots. If this is what she wants, it’s effective but annoying. If I’m in a novel, I want to be in a novel, I kept thinking, not in a Twitter simulation ... Instead of raising new ideas about what constitutes a novel, No One Is Talking About This evokes dread of its long-predicted death ... It’s a shame — to jam all that richness and revelation into the one place a critic dare not spoil, never mind how exquisitely it fits against the narrator’s internet-scrambled psyche ... If No One Is Talking About This is an experiment in form, it’s one that can only be redeemed by conceding its own failure, admitting that it needs at least some of the structure and heart of the traditional novel to dig beneath glib artifice.
Lockwood, who catapulted to fame with the viral 2013 poem 'Rape Joke,' has indeed published two volumes of poetry, plus a lauded memoir, Priestdaddy, which made a friend of mine laugh so hard she peed. No One Is Talking About This begins in a similarly high key ... Part one of the novel, which first appeared in a talk Lockwood gave at the British Museum, reads like this new 'stream-of-a-consciousness,' but on steroids. It is — and I mean this as a compliment — completely demented ... The heroine emerges quite changed at the end of this one. I did, too.
The narrative of No One Is Talking About This comes at the reader in disconnected fragments, stand-alone collections of two or three paragraphs that often carry a one-liner in their tail like the sting of a scorpion ... But what feels most original in No One Is Talking About This is Lockwood’s depiction of the shaping pressure of social media on the self ... Presumably, No One Is Talking About This is an autobiographical novel, given that the main character, her experiences, her family, and the stuff she posts closely resemble Lockwood’s own ... Throughout the first of the novel’s two parts, the book appears simply to be a depiction of how it feels to be both extremely online and very good at it. This flood of shards is not a narrative, let alone a plot, but maybe that’s the point—or at least that’s what I found myself thinking, skeptically ... But No One Is Talking About This does turn out to have a story to tell.
This family tragedy is drawn from Lockwood’s own life, and the time she spends with her sister and the baby, who, against the odds, lives for six months, is beautifully and movingly described ... Lockwood has found a way to talk in her funny, sharply distinctive voice about what matters with delicacy and sadness, and the novel becomes a meditation on grief, time, consciousness, love and 'the broad electric stream of things'.
As Patricia Lockwood piles up allusions to Twitter memes and in-jokes about that social media site, only two reactions are possible: the not-online will feel total and healthy incomprehension, but the too-online will know that they are in the company of a kindred spirit...So there is no point complaining about this novel’s disjointedness (it’s written as a series of short, sequential vignettes), its precocious and knowing tone, its insular references to the world of the internet. If you understand these things well enough, you belong to the world of the novel, and any annoyance rebounds on yourself ... But — and this is a terrible thing to say about fiction drawing on a personal tragedy — the baby feels like a sentimental device ... The child fortuitously resets the narrator’s dysfunctional relationship with the internet. If I find that too much, perhaps I’m not after all the exact same amount of online as Lockwood.
... does not read like a glorified timeline or a series of blogposts strung together into a chatty necklace, but like a work of a full-fledged literature. It gets the right things wrong, for which reason it may be one of the first works of contemporary internet fiction to get the important things right ... The plot inches, but the writing whirls ... On the whole, and much to her credit, [Lockwood] avoids the stale snideness that often characterizes online interaction, opting instead for absurdist elation. Many of her funniest and most exuberant meditations are gleeful ... Writing so evocative could not be more unlike the usual online slurry, for which reason No One Is Talking About This seems to go some ways towards extricating Lockwood from the hivemind and restoring her authorial agency ... Lockwood is not hostile to the sapphires of the instant, but she is not hostage to them either—and as a result, her novel is not hostage to the world in its current incarnation ... No One Is Talking About This is a good novel because it is more essentially about the brief life of a baby than about time spent browsing a website. It does not really answer the question of how a book about the internet should be, except to suggest that the best books about the internet will be about the people who resist it. I hope we will read them on paper.
Lockwood’s exquisite writing aims to show how the lines have blurred between online and real life, and how difficult it can be to discern between the two ... The failings of this novel are that Lockwood does not concede that it’s far more likely that the online-ness of our world, and the changes in language that will continue to occur because of the ever-growing purveyor of the Internet, will expand in orders of magnitude to be more influential than they are even now. Without acknowledging this, the notion of the Internet as the guiltiest of pleasures remains what it is, a tired trope about those who rely on the online world as a way to define themselves. This becomes increasingly apparent in the second section, when the narrator’s interrogation of her relationship with 'the portal' comes to a point, to a halt.
To her credit, Patricia Lockwood doesn’t write this experience as though it will awaken her character to what 'really matters.' She also doesn’t use it to paint her character’s prior life as shallow. Rather, she explores whether the two worlds can co-exist, and how they change each other when they meet.
Lockwood's narrator both mocks the portal and mirrors it, leaping from one subject to another, often in service of a punch line. The novel sustains this tone for so long that the reader must scramble to adjust when the lacquer of inanity cracks and all-consuming sorrow pours forth ... Lockwood manages to illuminate the futility of the portal without necessarily condemning its adherents ... Lockwood's intelligence is ablaze on the page, and there are moments of brilliant lyricism, even as they are glazed with sadness ... A story that cannot reach any bearable resolution resorts, instead, to beauty and distraction.
... mimics the plotless, performative insouciance of a Twitter feed, which is to say it fizzes with the over-stimulated aphoristic wit that has made Lockwood the darling of Twitter ... It’s a filthy, funny, strung-out prose poem that aims to capture precisely how we think and speak online and what that might mean, and it’s often both stingingly accurate and weirdly beautiful ... Lockwood’s hyperactive self awareness gives her writing a wired, questioning restlessness that often bends back on itself. Everything is a huge joke even when it’s not. This can become exhausting ... For all Lockwood’s high wire mixing of multiple tonal registers, the inconsequential vitality of her prose also risks the same potential obsolescence as any tweet in a feed...Yet slowly she builds up a horrified portrait of a collective consciousness straining for connection while simultaneously consuming itself ... Lockwood ditches the irony and turns instead to a more conventional novelistic emotional register that captures with exquisite grace and truth the impact of this on her sister, her family, herself ... It’s an abrupt about-turn from the ridiculous to the sublime, from the unserious to the serious and, in the framework of the book, a bit of a cop out. If one of the fundamental questions in this book is how do we write seriously about ourselves in the age of Twitter, then Lockwood’s own answer would seem to be: at the end of the day in the same way we’ve always done.
Lockwood’s narration of the woman’s thoughts propels this provocative, addictive, and unusual novel. The book’s first half is filled with her darkly irreverent, mordant musings on the portal and how it got to this, a screen-addled situation that sounds much like our own ... With unfettered, imagistic language, Lockwood conjures both a digital life that’s easily fallen into, and the sorts of love and grief that can make it all fall away.
Lockwood’s debut novel comes packed with the humor, bawdiness, and lyrical insight that buoyed her memoir Priestdaddy ... Throughout, a fragmented style captures and sometimes elevates a series of text messages and memes amid the meditations on family ... This mighty novel screams with laughter just as it wallops with grief.
Lockwood is very much of the internet but also, perhaps, our guide to moving beyond thinking of the internet as a thing apart from real lives and real art ... The first part is written in short little bursts that feel like Instagram captions or texts—but if Lydia Davis was writing Instagram captions and texts. The second part is written in short little bursts that feel like they’re being written in spare moments snatched while caring for an infant. (Again, Lydia Davis comes to mind.) ... The woman at the center of this novel doesn’t trade ironic laughter for soul-shattering awe so much as she reveals that both can coexist in the same life and that, sometimes, they may be indistinguishable. An insightful—frequently funny, often devastating—meditation on human existence online and off.