American novelist, poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood won Swansea University’s £20,000 Dylan Thomas Prize for her “sharply witty and innovative interpretation of modern internet culture”.
The award, given to Lockwood for his first novel Nobody’s Talking About This, is given to an author aged 39 or younger and is one of the most prestigious prizes for young writers.
Nobody’s Talking About This centers on an anonymous narrator as she deals with social media fame and a life lived on a Twitter-like platform called “the portal.”
The chair of the award jury, writer and festival director Namita Gokhale, described Lockwood as an “astounding and totally original new voice”. She added: “Patricia Lockwood, a very timely winner, is the voice of a generation of new writers who grew up under the constant pressure of real-time news and social media.”
Gokhale, co-founder and director of the Jaipur literature festival, said the book was “an inventive and innovative take on modern Internet culture and the experience of family trauma in the modern world”.
The novel is divided into two parts, with Gokhale calling the book’s stream of consciousness “almost diary-like”. This, he told her, meant that he was “remarkably adept at capturing the psychological impact that the simultaneous alienation and ‘groupthink’ of online life have on us as individuals.”
Fellow judge Irenosen Okojie called No One Talks About This “an absurd and timely wonder of a book” that was “sharp, intellectually adroit and full of wisdom”.
The other judges were author and former award winner Rachel Trezise, novelist Alan Bilton, and poet Luke Kennard.
Lockwood, who is a contributing editor to the London Review of Books, was the only debut novelist on the 2021 Booker Prize shortlist, and Nobody Talks About This was also a finalist for the Women’s Fiction Prize.
She is the author of two poetry collections, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, and an acclaimed memoir Priestdaddy, about moving in with her parents and considering her religious upbringing.
The other books shortlisted for the award were Anuk Arudpragasam’s A Passage North, Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe’s Auguries of a Minor God, Nathan Harris’s The Sweetness of Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water and Brandon Taylor’s Filthy Animals.
Previous recipients of the award include Raven Leilani, Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, Kayo Chingonyi, Fiona McFarlane and Max Porter.