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Sally Rooney’s first two books are perfectly of the moment

posted by Chrysanthe Tenentes   Apr 10, 2019

Ignore the m-word and read Sally Rooney: How Should a Millennial Be?

As a portrait of young people today, Rooney’s books are remarkably precise—she captures meticulously the way a generation raised on social data thinks and talks. Rooney’s characters love to announce where they fall on the matrix of taste and social awareness. They read Patricia Lockwood and watch Greta Gerwig movies; they read Twitter for jokes. Decisions are made according to typologies. There’s built-in social meaning for any interest or opinion. “No one who likes Yeats is capable of human intimacy,” says Nick, and I was reminded of friends swiping left on Tinder, rejecting dates because their favorite movies signaled unquestionable incompatibility.

The review’s later parenthetical reference to Andrew Martin’s debut novel is noteworthy. I read Rooney’s Conversations with Friends and Martin’s Early Work in close succession last year and see similarities in perspective. I’d also include Benjamin Lytal’s A Map of Tulsa in that grouping. All are told from a fresh standpoint, with varying degrees of lush language, and romantic turmoil only bearable among a certain age group, with a healthy dose of capital-L Literary references. None are stodgy nor dated despite some social media observations.