‘No One is Talking About This’ by Patricia Lockwood is a short, unusual novel which seems to act as a pristinely preserved time capsule of the online era. Lockwood emphasises the hypocrisy of a life lived through a screen, and captures the chaos, sheer volume, ignorance, humour, and despair of the ‘portal’ in the form of the internet, which we carry with us (metaphorically and physically) at all times. We live in a world in which your hairdresser shows you a meme as she works, bonding with others on the sole basis of being ‘exactly, and happily, and hopelessly, the same amount of online’, having events dramatized at every second until we exist in a warped reality where debates about everything and nothing consume us. These are all indicators of the way in which social media permeates our modern life entirely.
The structure which Lockwood chooses effectively demonstrates her message is unconventional. She uses sections, expressed as individual thoughts of the speaker, split into short paragraphs or often single sentences. This creates an immensely quick pace and seems as if she has adapted to our ever-shortening attention spans. These disjointed musings mirror tweets in their concise nature and, often, their unrelatedness to one another. It is almost as if the speaker’s attention span, like our own, is fractured and reflects the content she so actively consumes; she views reality through the lens of a 250-character quip. However, to some extent this has its demerits as the novel at points became almost too disjointed, acting as unrelated thoughts rather than something cohesive until the second half. In this way, Lockwood has seemingly written two separate novels and combined them into one which in some way reflects the stagnancy of a life spent online but also makes for a partially disconnected mix of ideas.
The onset of reality within the novel - manifesting as a devastating event in the speaker’s life - opens up an almost entirely new tale, one which further highlights the difficulty of detaching from the online world. It’s an inextricable part of us; even in moments of tragedy we are still thinking of the internet’s tiny bursts of triviality, like the comedic altering of the spelling of the word ‘baby’ into increasingly absurd variations. Lockwood highlights how interactions, when normality is necessary, have become stilted for her speaker, who has based her online persona on observations based on the bizarre, constantly evolving humour of the internet: ‘If all she was funny, and none of this was funny, where did that leave her?’
As soon as I finished this novel, I connected to ‘the portal’ myself to write this review. Now, I am aware of the awful irony there. Lockwood’s message overall did resonate with me, as someone who finds herself all too often adopting internet habits and lingo. My insistence on leaving capital letters off when texting my friends, for instance, proves Lockwood’s point that I’m changing my behaviour ‘because… it was the way the portal wrote’. Like ‘ahahaha’- ‘the funnier way to laugh’. It appears that we have become dictated by an inexplicable peer pressure, not from any individual but the sprawling Frankenstein’s monster that the internet itself has become. It’s an entity, a portal; it traps and envelops us. It dictates our words, our tone, our humour. And no one is talking about this.