the next good book

Beautiful World, Where Are You?

By Sally Rooney


353 pages

What’s it about? Alice is a 29-year-old novelist who is struggling to come to terms with both her new found success and her personal life.  This book follows her new romantic relationship with Felix, and her older friendships with Eileen and Simon. What did it make me think about? I am so glad I am not a young adult now.  The earnestness, overthinking, guilt, anxiety, and judgment would be hard to manage.  “For me it feels like I am looking down and seeing for the first time that I’m standing on a minuscule ledge at a dizzying height, and the only thing supporting my weight is the misery and degradation of almost everyone else on earth.  And I alway end up thinking: I don’t even want to be up here.  I don’t need all these cheap clothes and imported foods and plastic containers, I don’t even think they improve my life.  They just create waste and make me unhappy anyway. (Not that I’m comparing my dissatisfaction to the misery of actually oppressed peoples, I just mean that the lifestyle they sustain for us is not even satisfying, in my opinion.) Should I read it? Well….   It is an interesting book with lots of thought provoking ideas- and I am glad I read it.  I understand that Sally Rooney does not speak for every 29 year-old out there, but she does seem able to express the angst that some of her generation must be feeling.  I found it interesting that her female characters had such strong global empathy, and yet struggled so much in their actual relationships…   I personally did not find the characters all that compelling, or their viewpoints sustainable, but it certainly broadens my understanding.  This book gets 8 stars for being enlightening- not for being entertaining. Quote- “I looked at the internet for too long today and started feeling depressed.  The worst thing is that I actually think people on there are generally well meaning and the impulses are right, but our political vocabulary has decayed so deeply and rapidly since the twentieth century that most attempts to make sense of our present historical moments turn out to be essentially gibberish.  Everyone is at once hysterically attached to particular identity categories and completely unwilling to articulate what those categories consist of, how they came about, and what purposes they serve.  The only apparent scheme is that for every victim group (people born into poor families, women, people of colour) there is an oppressor group (people born into rich families, men, white people).  But in this framework, relations between victims and oppressor are not historical so much as theological, in that victims are transcendently good and the oppressors are personally evil.  For this reason, an individual’s membership of a particular identity group is a question of unsurpassed ethical significance, and a great amount of our discourse is devoted to sorting individuals into their proper groups, which is to say, giving them their proper moral reckoning.”

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