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Booker Longlist 2021: No One Is Talking About This

For our next longlist book, our panel read Patricia Lockwood’s No one is talking about this. Six of us read it and Anita, Nicole and Jen provided reviews. Keep reading to found out what we thought. 

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: 

A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet — or what she terms ‘the portal’. Are we in hell?, the people of the portal ask themselves. Who are we serving? Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?

Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: ‘Something has gone wrong,’ and ‘How soon can you get here?’ As real life and its stakes collide with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.

Sincere and delightfully profane, No One Is Talking About This is a love letter to the infinite scroll and a meditation on love, language and human connection from one of the most original voices of our times.

Patricia Lockwood was born in a trailer in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and raised in all the worst cities of the Midwest. She is the author of two poetry collections, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, and the astounding memoir Priestdaddy. 

Jen’s Thoughts: Once in a while a book comes and blows you away, and for me this was one of those books. I loved everything about the book. It was innovative in style and the treatment of its main themes, beautifully written, irreverent, witty, and profoundly emotional but in an understated and really beautiful way. This book perfectly captures a moment in time (makes me want to add it to a time capsule). Lockwood is clearly a poet. I read the first page and came across this sentence…

“Outside, the air hung swagged and the clouds sat in piles of couch stuffing, and in the south of the sky there was a tender spot, where a rainbow wanted to happen.”

At that moment, I knew I was going to love this book, and I did. I finished the book on the plane and I sat in my seat crying (the person sitting next to me asked if I was okay), but the sadness was mixed with an appreciation of the way the author tackled the subject in a touching way. Half of this book does read like a love letter and the juxtaposition between the social media pieces and the real human connection was truly wonderful. This is only my second Booker nominee but I’m rooting for this one.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot development: 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 20/20

Nicole’s Thoughts: 

Patricia Lockwood has a wicked sense of humor and her finger on the pulse. There were so many brilliant lines in this book. Lockwood is just the kind of writer I like and reading this inspired me to read Priestdaddy which was also excellent. This is the kind of book that would stand up well to a second reading, which I will definitely do at some point.

Part scathing social commentary, part love letter, absolutely unapologetic. Social media is here to stay and more and more books are incorporating it. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. For me, this worked.

I thought this was excellent.

Writing quality: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 19/20

Anita’s Thoughts: 

Thematically interesting and with moments that were truly touching, this book’s strengths were offset by its structure. Part I basically re-surfaces a whole bunch of Twitter nostalgia in bite sized chunks. If you were into Twitter in 2017-19, this might be a fun reminiscence. If you weren’t (and I wasn’t), you basically have little idea of what is being alluded to. I fail to see how this “look at me, I’m so clever” structure made for a good reading experience. Fortunately, the much improved Part II shows us a family dealing with the tremendous love of a child, despite her imperfections, and the accompanying grief that derives from her hopeless condition. I think anyone who has had a child will really be hard pressed not to shed a tear. The author seemed to be saying that online life, which is almost always going in for a laugh or out for a kill, is a distraction from the real world where perfection is not a pre-requisite to love and even the helpless creatures help to underscore our humanity. Or maybe I was just hoping that’s what the author wanted to say. It’s possible she just wanted to juxtapose the comedy of our online existence to the pathos of reality, and to show how fragmented our lives have become with only the most impactful life events pulling us back from the lure of the portal. The problem is – – I’m really not sure what she meant, whether this book was intended as black comedy, or a salute to internet culture, or an autobiographical tribute for her sister. I have no idea really, and while I salute the creative effort, I can’t say I liked where I ended up.

Writing quality: 2/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 2/4
Plot development: 2/4
Overall enjoyment: 0/2
Total: 11/20

Here is how our other panelists rated the book:

BookWorm’s Ratings
Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 14/20

Tracy’s Ratings
Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 18/20

Susie’s Ratings
Writing quality: 4.5/5
Originality: 5/5
Character development: 4/4
Plot development: 3.5/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 19/20

Rankings so far
No one is Talking about it: 16.83
Klara and the Sun 13.3

We want to hear from you. What did you think about this book? Does it deserve to be on the list? Why or why not?

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Yay, I love this book. So glad you loved it. Definitely read Priestdaddy when you have time, Jen.

    Liked by 1 person

    August 13, 2021

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