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The Hornet Mascot Falls in Love

Patricia Lockwood, 18 July 2013

... Piece human, piece hornet, the fury of both, astonishing abs all over it. Ripped, just ripped to absolute bits, his head in the hornet and his head in the hum, and oh he want to sting her. The air he breathes is filled with flying cheerleader parts. Splits flips and splits, and ponytails in orbit, the calm eye of the panty in the centre of the cartwheel, the word HORNETS – how? – flying off the white uniform ...


Patricia Lockwood: Putting on Kafka’s Tux, 24 March 2022

... Kafka​ had consumption, which everyone else also had at that time: look at them up on the tops of mountains, men coughing spots in love with women coughing spots, so that you could draw lines between them until the whole world was filled in. It was a comfort to read him in a year when everyone again had the same disease. More specifically her, for in that moment she was everyone ...

It was gold

Patricia Lockwood: Joan Didion’s Pointillism, 4 January 2018

Joan Didion: The Centre Will Not Hold 
directed by Griffin Dunne.
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South and West: From a Notebook 
by Joan Didion.
Fourth Estate, 160 pp., £10, September 2017, 978 0 00 825717 0
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... The first thoughts​ about Joan Didion are not reasonable. The present literature about her is a hagiography that does not entirely trust itself; there is a vacancy at the centre of it that I call the ‘but surely’. But surely if these essays were published now, the hagiography says to itself at three in the morning, they would meet with a different reception? But surely if she wrote today, her ideas about feminism would be more in line with ours? But surely, for all her pointillism, she is failing to draw the conclusions we would most like to see? The hagiography turns the pillow over, looking for a cool spot ...

Aviators and Movie Stars

Patricia Lockwood: Carson McCullers, 19 October 2017

Stories, Plays and Other Writings 
by Carson McCullers.
Library of America, 672 pp., £33.99, January 2017, 978 1 59853 511 2
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... Hers​ is one of the faces that rises up when I am wandering the library of my mind. The gaze, sharp and swimming, with the right eye like a bead on a glass. The swinging haircut, a little disarranged with thinking, the fringe you can imagine her roughly pushing off her forehead, as her penned-in and pacing girl characters did. The dark mouth, interrupted in the middle of some opinion ...

Why do I have to know what McDonald’s is?

Patricia Lockwood: Rachel Cusk takes off, 10 May 2018

by Rachel Cusk.
Faber, 249 pp., £8.99, May 2018, 978 0 571 34676 9
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by Rachel Cusk.
Faber, 260 pp., £8.99, May 2018, 978 0 571 34674 5
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by Rachel Cusk.
Faber, 232 pp., £16.99, May 2018, 978 0 571 34664 6
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... The observation​ that some people do not like Rachel Cusk is so omnipresent in criticism of her work that it’s surprising no one’s ever led off a review with ‘I, too, dislike her.’ These observations are generally accompanied by photos or illustrations of her in which she looks at you both directly and flinchingly, almost always with a strand of hair in the centre of her forehead, with a smile somewhat like Edna O’Brien’s – another writer who seemed to rouse hatred for her disarranged hair as much as for her books, another writer who went to convent school ...


Patricia Lockwood: Insane after coronavirus?, 16 July 2020

... My story​ will be that John Harvard gave it to me. ‘Who’s that?’ I asked, pointing at a bronze bust in the reading room where I had arrived to give my lecture, and was told that it was the university’s founder, John Harvard. ‘Damn,’ I said. ‘It never even occurred to me that Harvard was a guy.’ It was the night of 3 March, and travelling didn’t seem so foolhardy as it would even a week later; at that point the accepted wisdom was that hand sanitiser was the great necessity, and that the virus was being mostly spread by touch ...


Patricia Lockwood: America is a baby, 3 December 2020

... On Election Day,​ as soon as the polls closed, I had to watch the three-hour-long 1972 movie musical 1776. You almost certainly haven’t seen it, so I’ll summarise it for you. The year is – well, you know that part – and the flies of patriotism are buzzing in the room in colonial Philadelphia where the Second Continental Congress is refusing to debate a proposal for American independence ...

Watching Dragons Mate

Patricia Lockwood: Edna O’Brien’s ‘Girl’, 5 December 2019

by Edna O’Brien.
Faber, 230 pp., £16.99, September 2019, 978 0 571 34116 0
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... Atypical​ Edna O’Brien story begins on a square of green. A stone farmhouse looms behind, with a slick spot on the flagstones where the same tin can is emptied every morning by the hired man. Pigs are somewhere in the mix, as are sheep and cows. Around and above and within the green floats another colour, that of deep velvet, the sacred heart, a dog’s tongue ...

Eat butterflies with me?

Patricia Lockwood, 5 November 2020

Think, Write, Speak: Uncollected Essays, Reviews, Interviews and Letters to the Editor 
by Vladimir Nabokov, edited by Brian Boyd and Anastasia Tolstoy.
Penguin, 576 pp., £12.99, November, 978 0 14 139838 9
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... Strong Opinions​ , a collection of Nabokov’s interviews, reviews and essays published in 1973, contains an interview with the great man so brazenly bad, so shocking in each successive clause, that as long as you’re reading it, you’re dreaming of the movie version. Picture Benedict Cumberbatch hunched over a legal pad, sweating lightly, pressing Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (Jared Harris) to admit that a sentence about a character paring his fingernails was inspired by James Joyce ...

Sex on the Roof

Patricia Lockwood, 6 December 2018

Evening in Paradise: More Stories 
by Lucia Berlin.
Picador, 256 pp., £14.99, November 2018, 978 1 5098 8229 8
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Welcome Home: A Memoir with Selected Photographs 
by Lucia Berlin.
Picador, 160 pp., £12.99, November 2018, 978 1 5098 8234 2
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... the final real fuck on the roof? I think I know the Moynihans, I thought as I read – the name ‘Lockwood’ being a codeword in my family for extreme difference of mind, gleeful expenditure, alcoholism, impulsiveness indistinguishable sometimes from insanity. We’re the sort of people who climb into garbage cans, sleep with the clowns we hire for our ...

I hate Nadia beyond reason

Patricia Lockwood: I’m Lila, I’m Lenù, 18 February 2021

The Lying Life Of Adults 
by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein.
Europa, 322 pp., £20, September 2020, 978 1 78770 236 3
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... Do​ you understand what a pleasure it is not to have to begin with this little biographical section? Sometimes a writer goes to school somewhere, and you have to know which years. Sometimes a writer gets married three times, or is a sex freak, or stabs people at parties. The cry BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHO ELENA FERRANTE IS, EXCEPT FOR THOSE OF US WHO LOOKED UP HER REAL ESTATE RECORDS! is met from me only with the words: ‘Thank God ...

Pull off my head

Patricia Lockwood: What a Bear Wants, 12 August 2021

by Marian Engel.
Daunt, 176 pp., £9.99, April 2021, 978 1 911547 94 5
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... The​ old cover was better. I am talking about the notorious mass market paperback of Marian Engel’s 1976 masterpiece, where the body of a softcore librarian is completely laid open to us, surrounded by flowing silk. Her tits are perfect, like two drawers of a card catalogue. The bear of the title looms over her shoulders, a Muppet designed to be sexual, smiling inside the dark cavern of his face and presumably doing her from behind ...

Strap on an ox-head

Patricia Lockwood: Christ comes to Stockholm, 6 January 2022

The Morning Star 
by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Martin Aitken.
Harvill Secker, 666 pp., £20, September 2021, 978 1 910701 71 3
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... Imight have​ met him once. In September 2015 I flew to Norway for a literary festival. Knausgaard was the headliner, but he cancelled at the last minute and was replaced by an Elvis impersonator. Instead of pictures of Karl Ove smoking the cigarette of the camera down to its smouldering butt-end, the newspaper coverage of the event included photographs of a pastorally beefy Elvis in a white rhinestone jumpsuit, gazing through dark glasses into the bright sun ...

The Communal Mind

Patricia Lockwood: The Internet and Me, 21 February 2019

... A few​ years ago, when it suddenly occurred to us that the internet was a place we could never leave, I began to keep a diary of what it felt like to be there in the days of its snowy white disintegration, which felt also like the disintegration of my own mind. My interest was not academic. I did not care about the Singularity, or the rise of the machines, or the afterlife of being uploaded into the cloud ...

Malfunctioning Sex Robot

Patricia Lockwood: Updike Redux, 10 October 2019

Novels, 1959-65: ‘The Poorhouse Fair’; ‘Rabbit, Run’; ‘The Centaur’; ‘Of the Farm’ 
by John Updike.
Library of America, 850 pp., £36, November 2018, 978 1 59853 581 5
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... I was hired​ as an assassin. You don’t bring in a 37-year-old woman to review John Updike in the year of our Lord 2019 unless you’re hoping to see blood on the ceiling. ‘Absolutely not,’ I said when first approached, because I knew I would try to read everything, and fail, and spend days trying to write an adequate description of his nostrils, and all I would be left with after months of standing tiptoe on the balance beam of objectivity and fair assessment would be a letter to the editor from some guy named Norbert accusing me of cutting off a great man’s dong in print ...

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