Sunday 16 January 2022

Post on a glorious winter morning...

It’s sunny and bright, and although it’s still quite cold, it’s supposed to warm up considerably, making this a great day to take a long walk.  But first I’m going to enjoy a steaming cup of “Oh Christmas Tea” tea and a delicious date bar while I write this post.

I read a rather unusual book last week, which I must have heard about through a publisher's e-newsletter, and I'll admit upfront that this post will not do it justice, but here goes...  No One is Talking About This is the debut novel by American poet Patricia Lockwood, and it was both highly recommended and well-reviewed.  Made up entirely of short posts on a virtual platform known only as “the portal”, the novel begins with an unnamed narrator moving from city to city, touring and meeting her adoring fans.  Her social media posts are incredibly popular, often hilarious, almost always thought-provoking, and she is trying to make sense of her place in this virtual reality.  Then two short messages arrive from her mother, asking her to come home, that something is wrong.  In the second part of the book, still told in short post-like segments, she shares the devastating news that her sister’s unborn baby has Proteus Syndrome (think the Elephant Man) and is unlikely to survive more than a few days.  What follows is a study in grief, the need to make sense of this and find meaning in the universe.  The juxtaposition of these two parts, where “the portal” (or the internet) is so prominent in the first part and so clearly wrong in the second, is interesting because it is still the only way the narrator has to communicate with us, the readers, and she must find a way to make it work without diminishing the grief and sorrow and quest for consolation her family is experiencing.  When I first picked it up, I was a bit put off by the form, thinking, “how is she going to tell a story in these little bites?”, but I quickly realized that these may be small segments, but they have big meaning, and realized that this was a book I should own so I could read it again more slowly to try to better understand and absorb everything Lockwood is trying to convey.  Of course, the second part was heart-wrenching, and she did an amazing job of drawing us in to share her experiences of utter desolation and also her awkwardness with “the portal”.  Her ability to convey this so convincingly may be because it is based on her own experiences with her niece, which makes it even more heart-wrenching.  But it also makes me as a reader think about this pouring out of grief, which in her book she could only do in “the portal” but here she shares in a print book, a format whose future has been called into question for decades with the rise of virtual platforms.  Hmmm… I really do think this is a book I need to have on my shelf so I can take it down and read it again any time I want.  As a recent publication (February, 2021), it won’t likely be in the used bookstores any time soon, but I’ll make a point of looking for it anyway.

That’s all for today.  Stay warm, get outside, and remember to keep reading!

Bye for now... Julie

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