American poet, novelist and essayist Patricia Lockwood has been awarded one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize – for her debut novel, No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury Publishing).
Also shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize and the Women’s prize for fiction 2021, Lockwood’s novel unpacks modern day internet culture and its impact on the individual psyche with immense sensitivity and surreptitious humour.
Lockwood was crowned the winner of the prestigious £20,000 Prize for No One Is Talking About This (Bloomsbury Publishing) at a ceremony in Swansea University’s Great Hall on Thursday 12 May, just two days before International Dylan Thomas Day.
On receiving the prize, Patricia Lockwood, who made it all the way from the USA to the UK but unfortunately couldn’t be at the ceremony in Swansea due to ill health, said: “I’m sitting here in my London hotel room on codeine, and I’m over the moon — actually, a little more codeine and I could probably convince myself that Dylan Thomas were here with me. I can’t wait to see the prize itself — I don’t know if it’s a pyramid or a crystal ball or a reproduction of the great man’s head. Whatever it is, I’m looking forward to setting off security systems with it at the airport.
“I’d like to say a little bit more in the future about how Dylan Thomas’ writing shaped me, but for now I’d just like to offer my deepest respect and admiration to all the other finalists, and my thanks to the prize and Swansea University for supporting young writers. Sadly, I am no longer one of them. But maybe that’s why this was my year.”
Chair of Judges, Namita Gokhale, said: “No One Is Talking About This is a vital reflection on online culture today. 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.
“No One Is Talking About This is a searingly witty and innovative take on modern day internet culture, and the experience of family trauma in the modern world. The book’s flow of consciousness, almost diary-like in quality, is remarkably deft at capturing the psychological impact which simultaneous alienation and ‘group think’ life online has on us as individuals. Lockwood is an astonishing and wholly original new voice. We are delighted that the jury of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize decided on her debut novel as its choice for the 2022 prize. We cannot wait to see what comes next from this uncompromising talent.”
The book was unanimously well received by the wider panel of judges. Author and former winner of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, Rachel Trezise, describes Lockwood’s debut novel as “a poignant, witty and genre-defying portrayal of the absurdity of being 'extremely online' as well as an urgent rumination on the necessity of human connection”.
Novelist Alan Bilton felt the book was “inventive, smart, and hyper self-aware” describing Lockwood as “the patron saint of digital natives, an explorer who has navigated the Twittersphere and knows: Here There Be Monsters.”
Short story writer Irenosen Okojie described No One Is Talking About This as “a timely, absurdist wonder of a book. Sharp, intellectually dexterous and full of wisdom”, while British poet Luke Kennard, also comments: “No One Is Talking About This feels to me like a timeless book about a specific moment. It dramatises and analyses our irony and distance before becoming so stricken and moving I was left reeling.”
The other titles shortlisted for the 2021 Prize were: A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books), Auguries of a Minor God by Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe (Faber), The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris (Tinder Press / Headline Publishing Group), Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking Press / Penguin General) and Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (Daunt Books Publishing).
Patricia Lockwood joins an illustrious list of writers to have been awarded this prestigious Prize, including Raven Leilani, Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, Kayo Chingonyi, Fiona McFarlane and Max Porter.