25 March 2021, The Tablet

Kicking against music


No One Is Talking About This
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Being in my twenties and Extremely Online (those who are Extremely Online capitalise this), reading Patricia Lockwood’s new novel is what watching the fourth series of The Crown is like for my ­parents. I was there; I remember what it was like; I watched “the video of a woman with a deformed bee for a pet, and the bee loved her, and then the bee died”. Like the main character, not only the words I write but the words I think are shaped by what is written on the internet, which itself “seem[s] … to require [my] perpetual co-writing”. As on social media, there are no paragraphs, only self-contained vignettes. Mostly these are affectionate, absurdist descriptions of the intense particularity of human interaction, or the way that the preoccupations and vocabularies of the infinite scroll – through Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, the headlines – seep across one’s whole exist­ence. “Now, when her cat vomited, she thought she heard the word praxis.” Those outside of this online world might find these preoccupations and vocabularies so ­unfamiliar as to be baffling. The trouble for the rest of us is that social media is already so satirised and self-satirising that I felt I’d read much of it before.

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