American novelist, poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood has won Swansea University’s Dylan Thomas Prize, worth £20,000, for her ‘witty-grabbing and innovative take on modern internet culture’.
The award, given to Lockwood for his debut novel No One Is Talking About This, is given to an author aged 39 or younger and is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers.
nobody talks about it focuses on an anonymous female narrator as she deals with social media fame and a life lived on a Twitter-like platform called “the Portal”.
The president of the prize jury, writer and festival director Namita Gokhale, described Lockwood as an “astonishing and totally original new voice”. She added: “A very timely winner, Patricia Lockwood 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-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, said the book was “a hugely witty and innovative take on modern 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 stream of consciousness “almost diary-like quality”. This, she said, meant he was “remarkably adept at capturing the psychological impact that simultaneous alienation and the online life of ‘groupthink’ have on us as individuals”.
Fellow judge Irenosen Okojie called Nobody Talks About This “an absurd and timely marvel of a book” that was “sharp, intellectually adept and full of wisdom”.
Other judges were author and former award winner Rachel Trezise, novelist Alan Bilton and poet Luke Kennard.
Lockwood, who is editor of 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 is the author of two books of poetry, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, and an acclaimed memoir Priestdaddy, about returning to her parents and dealing 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 award are Raven Leilani, Bryan Washington, Guy Gunaratne, Kayo Chingonyi, Fiona McFarlane and Max Porter.