Writing is a calling for Patricia Lockwood, as she made clear in her sacred and profane, lyrical and bawdy 2017 memoir, Priestdaddy. While still in her teens, she took the vows of literature and became "a person who almost never left the house." Art became her emissary. She confessed: "This is the secret: when I encounter myself on the page, I am shocked at how forceful I seem. On the page I am strong, because that is where I put my strength."
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.
Her unnamed narrator is a social media star who achieved prominence when her post, "Can a dog be twins?" went viral. This led to speaking engagements around the world, at one of which a man asks, "This is your contribution to society?"
Even as Lockwood's narrator acknowledges the difficulty of writing about what she calls "the portal"—especially without "a strong whiff of old white individuals being weird about the blues"—she attempts just that in the first half of this novel. In the second half, the portal's hold on her vaporizes when real life intrudes urgently, in terrible but also surprisingly beautiful ways. Important lessons ensue.
Lockwood deftly captures a life lived predominantly online in the "blizzard of everything," this "place of the great melting," with its vapid, mind-numbing, addictive culture. Her insider tour carefully showcases the "new shared sense of humor" and "elastic and snappable verbal play" that so insidiously morphs into jargon, dogma, and doctrine. 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."