American novelist, poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood has won the £20,000 Swansea University Dylan Thomas prize for her “searingly witty and innovative take on modern day internet culture”.
The prize, awarded to Lockwood for her debut novel No One Is Talking About This, is awarded to an author aged 39 or under, and is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers.
No One Is Talking About This focuses on an unnamed narrator as she deals with social media fame and a life lived on a Twitter-like platform called “the portal”.
Chair of judges for the prize, writer and festival director Namita Gokhale, described Lockwood as an “astonishing and wholly original new voice”. Sy het bygevoeg: “A deeply timely winner, Patricia Lockwood is the voice of a generation of new writers who grew up under the constant pressures of real-time news and social media.”
Gokhale, co-founder-director of Jaipur literature festival, said the book was “a searingly witty and innovative take on modern day internet culture, and the experience of family trauma in the modern world”.
The novel is divided into two parts, and Gokhale called the book’s flow of consciousness “almost diary-like in quality”. Dit, sy het gese, meant it was “remarkably deft at capturing the psychological impact which simultaneous alienation and ‘group think’ life online has on us as individuals”.
Fellow judge Irenosen Okojie called No One Is Talking About This “a timely, absurdist wonder of a book” that was “sharp, intellectually dexterous and full of wisdom”.
The other judges were author and former winner of the prize, Rachel Trezise, novelist Alan Bilton and poet Luke Kennard.
Lockwood, who is a contributing editor for the London Review of Books, was the only debut novelist to make the 2021 Booker prize shortlist, and No One Is Talking About This was also shortlisted for the Women’s prize for fiction.
She’s the author of two poetry collections, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, and an acclaimed memoir Priestdaddy, about moving back in with her parents and reckoning with her religious upbringing.
The other books shortlisted for the prize were A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam, Auguries of a Minor God by Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe, The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris, Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson and Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor.
Previous winners of the prize include Raven Leilani, Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, Kayo Chingonyi, Fiona McFarlane and Max Porter.