Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sally Rooney: 'Conversations with Friends' (2017)

Finished Sally Rooney's Conversations with Friends (London, New York: Hogarth, 2017; originally published by Faber & Faber, 2017) and Normal People (London: Faber & Faber, 2018) back-to-back. At the conclusion of the latter, my mind remained absorbed with it throughout the night. Both novels look closely at -- feel closely -- the intricate workings of social relationships.  

In Conversations with Friends, the main characters are Frances, Bobbi Connolly, Nick and Melissa. Other characters include Philip; Frances' divorced parents; Evelyn; Derek and Marianne. Much of the action takes place in Ireland, but not all of it. 
In the swirl of her intense relationships with Bobbi and Nick, Frances sometimes recoils. "I was a very autonomous and independent person," she tells herself, and her readers, "with an inner life that nobody else had ever touched or perceived." (page 275)

Sometimes Frances seems to be Waiting for Godot. "Gradually the waiting began to feel less like waiting and more like this was simply what life was: the distracting tasks undertaken while the thing you are waiting for continues not to happen . . . Things went on." (page 276)

Bobbi is sharp, "an active listener" (page 289) and engaged thinker/doer: "Who even gets married? said Bobbi. It's sinister [there are no quotation marks to delineate dialogue]. Who wants state apparatuses sustaining their relationship? (page 291) . . . Calling myself your girlfriend would be imposing some prefabricated cultural dynamic on us that's outside our control. You know?" (page 292). 

Exactly! Who, indeed? Rooney makes her writing seem simple, and maybe it is. But as in war, in writing even the simplest things are complex (see Marie and Carl von Clausewitz).

Today's Rune: Journey. 

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