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Unread Messages by Sally Rooney

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2021

There’s new short fiction from Sally Rooney in the New Yorker: Unread Messages.

For the rest of the afternoon in the office, the woman worked on the same text-editing interface, moving apostrophes and deleting commas. After closing one file and before opening another, she routinely checked her social-media feeds. Her expression, her posture, did not vary depending on the information she encountered there: a news report about a horrific natural disaster, a photograph of someone’s beloved pet, a female journalist speaking out about death threats, a recondite joke requiring familiarity with several other previous Internet jokes in order to be even vaguely comprehensible, a passionate condemnation of white supremacy, or a promoted tweet advertising a health supplement for expectant mothers. Nothing changed in her outward relationship to the world that would allow an observer to determine what she felt about what she saw. Then, after some length of time, with no apparent trigger, she closed the browser window and reopened the text editor. Occasionally one of her colleagues would interject with a work-related question and she would answer, or someone would share a funny anecdote with the office and they would all laugh, but mostly the work continued quietly.

Per an interview with Rooney, the piece is excerpted from her next novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You, due out in September and eagerly anticipated in this household.