“A minute means something to her, more than it means to us. We don’t know how long she has—I can give them to her, I can give her my minutes.” Then, almost angrily, “What was I doing with them before?” [loc. 1981]
This is a dense, concentrated novel, a challenge to review. Part One is about life online, specifically 'the portal' (which may be the whole of the internet, or just social media, or just Twitter which demands compact pithy posts). The nameless narrator has achieved fame via a viral meme, and travels the world talking about the portal and interacting with people, especially those who are exactly the same amount of online. It's a life lived more on-screen than off, artificial and self-referential, magnifying the importance of the portal, divorcing its afficionados from reality and from honest emotion. 'This did not feel like real life, exactly, but nowadays what did?' [loc. 289]
Part Two, which is 'autofiction' (i.e. based on actual events experienced by the author), is equally intense, more harrowing, and utterly real. A child is born with severe genetic defects: she is not expected to survive: the narrator devotes her time and attention to the child. Is it facile to say that the narrator regains a sense of proportion regarding her online life, her portal persona(e)? Is it naive to say reality, with all its messiness and pain and anguish, trumps the glossy superficialities of the internet?
Lockwood's prose is rich, precise, sometimes ringing with self-mockery and sometimes soberingly sincere. I found the first half hilarious and horribly relevant to my interests: the second half was distressing, though often beautiful. Individual sentences captivated me: I'm still pondering whether the novel as a whole did so.
Why had she entered the portal in the first place? Because she wanted to be a creature of pure call and response: she wanted to delight and to be delighted. [loc. 2932]