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kottke.org posts about Patricia Lockwood

Highlights from Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2022

No One Talking Lockwood

I read No One Is Talking About This (ebook) by Patricia Lockwood a few months ago, and boy oh boy Lockwood has a knack for sharp, funny, and incisive writing about what it’s like to live in this extremely online yet isolating cultural moment. As part of a very occasional series, here are some of the passages I highlighted from the book.

Page 4:

Capitalism! It was important to hate it, even though it was how you got money. Slowly, slowly, she found herself moving toward a position so philosophical even Jesus couldn’t have held it: that she must hate capitalism while at the same time loving film montages set in department stores.

Page 4:

Politics! The trouble was that they had a dictator now, which, according to some people (white), they had never had before, and according to other people (everyone else), they had only ever been having, constantly, since the beginning of the world. Her stupidity panicked her, as well as the way her voice now sounded when she talked to people who hadn’t stopped being stupid yet.

Page 7:

“Two hundred years ago, you might have been in a coffee shop in Göttingen, shaking the daily paper, hashing out the questions of the day — and I would be shaking out sheets from the windows, not knowing how to read.” But didn’t tyranny always feel like the hand of the way things were?

Page 7:

It was a mistake to believe that other people were not living as deeply as you were. Besides, you were not even living that deeply.

Page 9:

Every day their attention must turn, like the shine on a school of fish, all at once, toward a new person to hate. Sometimes the subject was a war criminal, but other times it was someone who made a heinous substitution in guacamole.

Page 13:

She had become famous for a post that said simply, Can a dog be twins? That was it. Can a dog be twins? It had recently reached the stage of penetration where teens posted the cry-face emoji at her. They were in high school. They were going to remember “Can a dog be twins?” instead of the date of the Treaty of Versailles, which, let’s face it, she didn’t know either.

Page 15 (the “portal” is Lockwood’s shorthand for Twitter (and/or the internet)):

Every country seemed to have a paper called The Globe. She picked them up wherever she went, laying her loonies and her pounds and her kroners down on counters, but often abandoned them halfway through for the immediacy of the portal. For as long as she read the news, line by line and minute by minute, she had some say in what happened, didn’t she? She had to have some say in what happened, even if it was only WHAT?

Page 19:

Every fiber in her being strained. She was trying to hate the police.” Start small and work your way up, “her therapist suggested.” Start by hating Officer Big Mac, a class traitor who is keeping the other residents of McDonaldland from getting the sandwiches that they need, and who when the revolution comes will have the burger of his head eaten for his crimes.” But this insight produced in her only a fresh wave of discouragement. Her therapist was more radical than her?

Page 23:

Our mothers could not stop using horny emojis. They used the winking one with its tongue out on our birthdays, they sent us long rows of the spurting three droplets when it rained. We had told them a thousand times, but they never listened — as long as they lived and loved us, as long as they had split themselves open to have us, they would send us the peach in peach season. NEVER SEND ME THE EGGPLANT AGAIN, MOM! she texted. I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU’RE COOKING FOR DINNER!

Page 24:

Previously these communities were imposed on us, along with their mental weather. Now we chose them — or believed that we did. A person might join a site to look at pictures of her nephew and five years later believe in a flat earth.

Page 31:

The chaos and dislocation were so great that people had stopped paying attention to celebrity dogs.

Page 33:

White people, who had the political educations of potatoes — lumpy, unseasoned, and biased toward the Irish — were suddenly feeling compelled to speak out about injustice. This happened once every forty years on average, usually after a period when folk music became popular again. When folk music became popular again, it reminded people that they had ancestors, and then, after a considerable delay, that their ancestors had done bad things.

Page 34:

A fur coat in a movie made in 1946 approached a state of being cruelty-free, so far was it from its original foxes.

Page 36:

“Are you… crying?” her husband asked, slinging his backpack into a chair. She stared at him blurrily. Of course she was crying. Why wasn’t he crying? Hadn’t he seen the video of a woman with a deformed bee for a pet, and the bee loved her, and then the bee died?

Page 42:

One audience member yawned, then another. Long before the current vectors came into being, they had been a contagious species.

Page 44 (see also Alternate Brand Slogans):

It should not be true that, walking the wet streets of international cities, she should suddenly detect the warm, the unmistakable, the broken-to-release-the-vast-steam-of-human-souls, the smell of Subway bread. That she should know it so instantly, that she should stop in her tracks, that she and her husband should turn to each other joyously and sing in harmony the words EAT FRESH. No, it should not be true that modern life made us each a franchise owner of a Subway location of the mind.

Page 47:

The woman next to her on the plane was reading, with that rapacious diffidence, that vacant avidity that characterized the reading of things in the portal, “25 Facts You Didn’t Know About Gone with the Wind.” Number 25 was just: Malnourished Horse.

Page 51:

Some people were very excited to care about Russia again. Others were not going to do it no matter what. Because above all else, the Cold War had been embarrassing.

Page 52:

In contrast with her generation, which had spent most of its time online learning to code so that it could add crude butterfly animations to the backgrounds of its weblogs, the generation immediately following had spent most of its time online making incredibly bigoted jokes in order to laugh at the idiots who were stupid enough to think they meant it. Except after a while they did mean it, and then somehow at the end of it they were Nazis. Was this always how it happened?

Page 54:

Certain people were born with the internet inside them and suffered greatly from it.

Page 55:

The unabomber had been right about everything! Well… not everything. The unabomber stuff he had gotten wrong. But that stuff about the Industrial Revolution had been right on the money.

Page 58:

Did you read the piece? It’s there in the piece. Did you even read the piece? Um, I wrote the piece.

Page 60:

A conversation with a future grandchild. She lifts her eyes, as blue as willow ware. The tips of her braids twitch with innocence. “So you were all calling each other bitch, and that was funny, and then you were all calling each other binch, and that was even funnier?” How could you explain it? Which words, and in which order, could you possibly utter that would make her understand? “… yes binch

Page 65:

SHOOT IT IN MY VEINS, we said, whenever the headline was too perfect, the juxtaposition too good to be true. SHOOT IT IN MY VEINS, we said, when the Flat Earth Society announced it had members all over the globe.

Page 70:

Was it better to resist the new language where it stole, defanged ,co-opted, consumed, or was it better to text thanksgiving titties be poppin to all your friends on the fourth Thursday of November, just as the humble bird of reason, which could never have represented us on our silver dollars, made its final unwilling sacrifice to our willingness to eat and be eaten by each other?

Page 72 (about Twitter, and the internet more broadly):

It had also once been the place where you sounded like yourself. Gradually it had become the place where we sounded like each other, through some erosion of wind or water on a self not nearly as firm as stone.

Page 73:

The words Merry Christmas were now hurled like a challenge. They no longer meant newborn kings, or the dangling silver notes of a sleigh ride, or high childish hopes for snow. They meant “Do you accept Herr Santa as the all-powerful leader of the new white ethnostate?”

Page 76:

The difference between her and her sister could be attributed to the fact that she came of age in the nineties, during the heyday of plaid and heroin, while her sister came of age in the 2000s, during the heyday of thongs and cocaine. That was when everything got a little chihuahua and started starring in its own show. That was when we saw the whole world’s waxed pussy getting out of a car, and said, more.

Page 86:

Modern womanhood was more about rubbing snail mucus on your face than she had thought it would be. But it had always been something, hadn’t it? Taking drops of arsenic. Winding bandages around the feet. Polishing your teeth with lead. It was so easy to believe you freely chose the paints, polishes, and waist-trainers of your own time, while looking back with tremendous pity to women of the past in their whalebones; that you took the longest strides your body was capable of, while women of the past limped forward on broken arches.

Page 90:

The people who lived in the portal were often compared to those legendary experiment rats who kept hitting a button over and over to get a pellet. But at least the rats were getting a pellet, or the hope of a pellet, or the memory of a pellet. When we hit the button, all we were getting was to be more of a rat.

Page 95:

What do you mean you’ve been spying on me? she thought — hot, blind, unreasoning, on the toilet. What do you mean you’ve been spying on me, with this thing in my hand that is an eye?

Page 96:

On a slow news day, we hung suspended from meathooks, dangling over the abyss. On a fast news day, it was like we had swallowed all of NASCAR and were about to crash into the wall. Either way, it felt like something a dude named Randy was in charge of.

Page 118:

They kept raising their hands excitedly to high-five, for they had discovered something even better than being soulmates: that they were exactly, and happily, and hopelessly, the same amount of online.

Page 127:

Compositionally, she appeared to be made of 14 percent classical music, the kind you were supposed to listen to while you were studying.

Page 133 (re: abortion):

“Surely there must be exceptions,” her father ventured, the man who had spent his entire existence crusading against the exception. His white-hairy hand traveled to his belt, the way it always did when he was afraid. He did not want to live in the world he had made, but when it came right down to it, did any of us?

Page 136:

But that bit of the Wikipedia entry, the end, was always the most suspect.

Page 137:

“Still,” the doctors urged them finally, “don’t go home and look this up.” That was the difference between the old generation and the new, though. She would rather die than not look something up. She would actually rather die.

Page 143:

How she wished she had never read that article about octopus intelligence, because now every time she sliced into a charred tentacle among blameless new potatoes she thought to herself, I am eating a mind, I am eating a mind, I am eating a fine grasp of the subject at hand.

Page 153:

Bo’s mother called his feeding tube his cheeseburgers. It was important to do things like that — if you didn’t call your baby’s feeding tube his cheeseburgers, then somehow the feeding tube won.

Page 153:

“Ableism,” her husband said, encountering this concept for the very first time. “Moby-Dick… was ableist… to Captain Ahab?”

Page 169:

The round rainbow, her answers told her when she touched down, was actually called a Glory.

And so the round rainbow you sometimes see when flying is called a glory. Of course I looked it up; I’d rather die than not look it up.

Update: It seems like a big chunk of the book was first delivered as a lecture at a London Review of Books event in early 2019. (via @timschfer)