your allotted serving of sally rooney discourse awaits

The Sally Rooney discourse, long may it reign as your primary hobby and mine, has resurrected anew in the form of Katy Waldman’s book review of Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan for the New Yorker, which drills down into, yes, the obvious comparisons between the two young Irish novelists and their style (the seventh paragraph alone could be taught as an MFA program) but also puts a name to the weird sensation you probably have gotten from reading (mostly female) writers or characters who turn self deprecation into an extreme sport: the reflexivity trap. You should read it all, but this paragraph especially:

Revealingly, both Rooney and Dolan propose a hazy link between characters’ self-hatred and their class. Ava, whose family in Ireland is barely making ends meet, craves the privileges that Julian and Edith take for granted. Frances, a poet with cash-flow problems, insinuates herself into the lives of Melissa and Nick, a well-off couple … I suspect that if some readers distrust the sincerity of Rooney’s politics, it’s for the same reason that I bridle at Ava’s self-loathing. Perhaps these readers sense that the characters’ economic disadvantages, like their psychological struggles, don’t serve a broader argument but, rather, clatter onto a kind of competitive scoreboard. Inequality reduces to a lightly sketched handicap for people who are already perfect according to all the metrics that it is fashionable to care about.

h/t Brady!


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