Former mayor of Mold Bob Gaffey reviews this year’s Booker Prize nominees: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
The Booker Prize is the leading literary award in the English speaking world and has brought recognition, reward and readership to outstanding fiction for over five decades.
Each year, the prize is awarded to what is, in the opinion of the judges, the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland. It is a prize that transforms the winner’s career.
Anuk Arudpragasam, Damon Galgut, Patricia Lockwood, Nadifa Mohamed, Richard Powers and Maggie Shipstead are today announced have been shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize for Fiction.
The former mayor of Mold, Bob Gaffey has reviewed all six Booker-shortlisted books which will be published on Deeside.com in the run-up to the award announcement day of Nov 3.
Bob is also a keen writer is set to release a book for Mold’s first Bookfest in May 2022.
All this year Booker nominee reviews:
- A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
- Bewilderment by Richard Powers
- No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
- The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed
- Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
- The Promise by Damon Galgut
Bob reviews No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood – Patricia Lockwood’s sincere and delightfully profane love letter to the infinite scroll, and a meditation on love, language and human connection.
No One Is Talking About This – Review by Bob Gaffey
The book is about a portal. This is where the American author/narrator lives her life. She eats, breathes, and drinks in and on social media. She is famous in this world and makes her living from it. She travels the world giving lectures on it before admiring admirers. She writes about the odd characters on social media, the eccentrics, the nutters et al. She never refers to Trump by name but by the term dictator. For example she says things like, “I read that the Dictator had gone too far today. The next day I read that there was no such thing as too far”. There are some insights in the book as the narrator rambles on her thoughts about the world and events. She has many followers and there are many she follows and some of them she meets at book signings.
This artificial world she lives in is rudely interrupted one day by a text from her mother. She has a brother and sister. The sister is expecting the first grandchild in the family and all are looking forward to it immensely. The text introduces us to the fact that the foetus has a serious condition. She has the same problem that the Elephant Man had, ie. the head is growing out of all proportion to her body. She may die before birth, she may be still-born; she would be living on borrowed time even if she survived birth. This real world explodes into the family’s life and her “portal” life. The story of how she responds to this crisis is developed. The 2 sisters are incredibly close and the narrator feels the pain almost as much as the mother herself. She realizes that she and millions of others are living a false life as a result.
In essence, this is the story in and of itself. It could have been told in 90 pages as Animal Farm was. But if I compared these 2 books to each other, then Farm would get 5 stars and this one 1 star. Of the Booker listed books I have read this year this is the weakest I’ve read so far. I would describe it as an experimental novel. I kept thinking of Jonathan Franzen and his novels. They take several years to write and fully develop themes and characters over long periods of time. They tell you so much about Americans and American society it’s like consuming a 5 course meal and feeling fully satiated. Reading Lockwood’s book I thought of the criticism of Twitter and all its sound- bites. They say it encourages short attention spans as people are conditioned to read in 140 characters. This book is a sound-bite compared to many novels of today never mind books written by Collins and Dickens.
I assume the title is about the lack of talk or analysis on the effect of people living in this false reality on social media. I am disappointed it’s on the shortlist and will be extremely disappointed if it wins. This will set a template for others to follow which I believe would be the wrong template.
About the author
Patricia Lockwood is an American poet, novelist and essayist who was born in a trailer in Indiana and raised ‘in all the worst cities of the Midwest’.
She is the only debut novelist on the 2021 Booker Prize shortlist with No One Is Talking About This, which was also shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Lockwood has previously written two poetry collections, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, and the memoir Priestdaddy, chosen by 15 publications as their book of the year.
She is a contributing editor for the London Review of Books and is currently working on a collection of short fiction and a new novel.
About Bob Gaffey
Bob Gaffey was mayor of Mold between 2017 and 2018.
He spent six years as a town councillor in Mold, raising more than £10,000 towards the restoration of Bailey Hill in the town as part of a project to turn the former Norman settlement into an outdoor attraction.
The funds were raised by holding events during his time as mayor in 2017/18.
The former union representative is currently chair of the Wrexham, Denbighshire and Flintshire branch of Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and the Delyn branch of Plaid Cymru.
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