book review: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

Riverhead, 2021

I thought this book was brilliant but as I was reading, I found myself a little dismayed at the way I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it. So much has been made of the fact that this is a book in “two halves”–the first is an irreverent stream-of-consciousness-style series of pithy observations that mimics the experience of scrolling through Twitter, and the second is much more serious, focusing on a family tragedy. The temptation to explain this division away by describing the first half as Online and the second half as Real Life is understandable, but I think it does a disservice to what Lockwood has actually attempted and achieved here.

I don’t think it’s about the division of Online/Real Life as much as it is a commentary on the inextricable fusion of the two. The narrator’s framework for viewing the world through a heavily Online lens is established in the first half, and then the second half shows that in times of grief and hardship, she’s still existing within that same framework even while being forced to participate in “Real Life” with more immediacy than she had been used to. While I certainly agree that this is structurally a book made up of two halves, I thought the second half of the book was such a natural continuation of the first that I really admired how Lockwood managed to achieve such a natural coherence of two completely disparate narratives. 

And as an Extremely Online Person myself, I loved how much nuance Lockwood brought to this commentary. I feel like so many books and articles and essays about The Internet fall into one of two traps, either extreme reverence or utter condemnation. The reality is so much more nebulous–The Internet is this bizarre world that we all live in separate to our real lives but an intrinsic part of our real lives and I thought Lockwood captured that beautifully. 

This is absolutely not a book that I’d recommend to everyone (frankly if you aren’t interested in Online Culture, stay away), but it really struck a chord with me and I admired it so much more than I had expected to.

9 thoughts on “book review: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

  1. I am SO intrigued by this one because I’m completely in love with her last book, the memoir Priestdaddy. It was so outstanding and I still go back and reread parts of it. I just love it so.

    But in addition to being fiction (although I think I heard this was more like autofiction?) I’m uneasy with too much online culture stuff. Twitter especially, which I don’t do. But she’s just such a brilliant writer, I don’t know. I might have to page through it, especially hearing how much you liked it.

    Also interesting that even if it’s not really two halves, or if it’s more cohesive than that, that there’s still a topic split, because Priestdaddy felt similarly to me and yet it worked so well. She’s really adept at her craft!


  2. Hurrah, I’m delighted that you loved this one! I’m a huge fan of Priestdaddy, like the commenter above, and the sense of humor and the mixed flippant/heartfelt tone that I loved in her memoir carry through here. It never occurred to me to label the two halves Online and IRL, but I can see why people would.


  3. Such an interesting review! I’ve definitely been reading reviews of the kind you describe (RL/Online) and this has made me much more intrigued to check this one out. I was originally put off because I assumed it was yet another of those books that totally condemn the internet (I’ve never read a book that has ‘utter reverence’ for the internet, and I’d actually like to, just for a change! Any examples?) I’ve reserved this book at two of my local library authorities so hopefully it will come through soon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve read a few reviews of this and while I’m not drawn to it, I appreciate your perspective. It does sound like she is doing something new which is always exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! I am glad to see that you got more out of this one than I did; I can totally see what you’re saying about the two halves being natural pieces of a greater whole, with the internet and life sort of informing each other, but that never quite clicked into place in a successful way for me. Actually I think I feel similarly about this one and Burnt Sugar- the arguments from those who love them make perfect sense, though my experience was so different that it’s hard to believe I read the same book, haha. Being an Only Somewhat Online person was probably more of an obstacle for me here than I wanted to admit. Nevertheless, I can agree this one’s a smart and timely book and am glad to see it getting a moment in the sun!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I feel like I’ve read 20 or more reviews and none of them made this connection. I think it’s inevitable that I’ll read this, as another Extremely Online person. Have you/will you read Fake Accounts? It seems to go hand in hand with this one, in people’s minds, though I think they sound pretty different!

    Liked by 1 person

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