You find yourself checking your phone the first thing you get out of bed as there may be something significantly delightful. The phone prompts that you have a new memory of a particular day or night and then it plays a slideshow of photos taken on that particular day or night. They bring back pleasant memories of a trip you took or an event that you attended a few years ago. They were taken not so long ago and yet it feels light years away due to the pandemic.
It is surreal and bizarre how the internet has taken over our world. It is no wonder that we feel disoriented most of the time because as it is , we already have a tough time differentiating what is real news and whether what we see or hear is real. By reason of the social media , we have the virtual world that definitely throws more confusion into the matrix of the mind.
Before the lockdown, I went for a haircut.There is something about having a haircut, it makes your head feel lighter. I wore my favourite pair of shoes. The brand is Melissa and on that day I received notification from Goodreads informing me that I have new followers on my reads, one of them is Melissa. I think of a friend and an idea, the next thing is I bump into the particular friend or voila somehow you chance upon an article or a book centred on the idea, it is sheer coincidence but surreal nonetheless. I am inclined to read much into chance encounters, random incidents, mostly inconsequential but pleasant and delightful. Your flow of thoughts may be eclectic but in its assortment, despite all the mambo jambo you do find certain joyful moments and sparkles. I do think it is to do with our collective stream of consciousness that you find it affecting and mood changing.
No one is talking about this is the debut novel written by Patricia Lockwood. The protagonist is a celebrated blogger who has become famous for a tweet that said simply, Can a dog be twins? ‘This has raised her to a certain airy prominence’ and she is invited to cities around the world to speak about ‘the new communication, the new slipstream of information’.
The novel has two parts, in part one we follow the musings of the narrator and it is about the twitter world. Part two deals with a family tragedy that is based on the writer and her sister’s real experiences. The narrative is about her sister’s unborn baby being diagnosed with Proteus Syndrome, best known for being the condition of the ‘ Elephant Man’. When the blogger has elected to live so completely in the portal, two messages from her mother set her world changing.
‘and there were the words, from her far mother, Something has gone wrong, and How soon can you get here?’
Suddenly she whose life predominantly lived online, she becomes “a citizen of necessity” and moves into the world of NICUs, a place where urgency is real. She is with her sister and family coping with the news about her niece who may not live and ‘if she lived, they did not believe she would live for long.’
‘ “ Everything that could have gone wrong with a baby’s brain went wrong here,” the doctors told them, “ The neurons all migrated into isolated pods, where they will never talk to each other,” the doctors said.’
In No One is Talking about This , the protagonist has no name. She has disappeared into the internet until her mother’s texts pierce the fray and her real life collides with the increasing absurdity of the portal where she finds herself caught between amusement and horror.
The story begins with this sentence.
‘She opened the portal, and the mind met her more than half-way.’
‘ Why did the portal feel so private, when you only entered it when you needed to be everywhere?’
The style of writing reflects an unstable stream of consciousness that we all experience online or offline. Here are some of the snippets from the story.
‘ She had become famous for a post that said simply, Can a dog be twins? That was it. Can a dog be twins? It had recently reached the stage of penetration where teens posted the cry-face emoji at her. They were in high school. They were going to remember “ Can a dog be twins?” instead of the date of the Treaty of Versailles, which, let’s face it, she didn’t know either.’
‘She lay every morning under an avalanche of details, blissed, pictures of breakfasts in Patagonia, a girl applying her foundation with a hard-boiled egg, a shiba inu in Japan leaping from paw to paw to greet its owner, ghostly pale women posting pictures of their bruises —–
The world pressing closer and closer, the spiderweb of human connection grown so thick it was almost a shimmering and solid silk, and the day still not opening to her. What did it mean that she was allowed to see this ?’
‘The future of intelligence must be about search, while the future of ignorance must be about the inability to evaluate information. But when she looked at the smoking landscape of fathers laid out by cable news, it seemed no longer a question of intelligence or ignorance, but one of infection.’
“Why had she entered the portal in the first place? Because she wanted to be a creature of pure call and response: she wanted to delight and to be delighted.”
There is a new law in Ohio that states that it is a felony to induce a pregnant woman before thirty-seven weeks, no matter what has gone wrong, no matter how big her baby’s head is.
‘ Surely there must be exceptions,” her father ventured. The man who had spent his entire existence crusading against the exception,’ Lockwood writes, ‘He did not want to live in the world he had made, but when it came right down to it, did any of us?’
The narrator questions what is a human being ‘ What did we have a right to expect from this life? What were the terms of the Contract? What had the politician promised us?’
Patricia Lockwood’s prose is beautiful and thought-provoking. No one is talking about this is a contemporary fiction about the way we communicate, the messages and words we string on social media. The novel is also an autofiction and a meditation on love, language and human connection. Brilliant. Patricia Lockwood is a poet and an awesome writer. https://tinhouse.com/how-do-we-write-now/