Beautiful World, Where Are You: No really, Where Are You

Back for more Sally Rooney. It’s because I’m so fancy. OR it’s because my S. suggested I read it. And she was right.

At one point early in the novel one of the women (Alice or Eileen) is writing to the other woman (they write a lot of letters back and forth) and observes that because human civilization is collapsing all that we can do, really, is focus on the small moments of our life and the relationships. And so goes the novel – this absorption with the intensity of the personal – all while the large (often captured in final sentences in the chapter to the pulsing of the universe etc) and the impending hovers just outside the frame.

It’s a relief, in some ways, to have a novel that lets you admit that the small and selfish is not only still relevant, but is worthy of absorption. Instead of (always) feeling guilty for not worrying about the climate catastrophe, or war, or the crumbling of democracy, or systemic racism, or the global pandemic, or or or or (always) feeling guilty for not doing more/anything about the same, the novel doesn’t abnegate responsibility, but affords space for both. You can be both filled with existential despair and obsessed with why your boyfriend hasn’t said I love you. You can be utterly exhausted by political ambition and greed and exhausted by your routine argument with your sister.

And, incredibly, you can also be happy.

One night while reading it just before bed (and perhaps a little compromised by my legally purchased and consumed cannabis product) I decided it was the book I’d like to have read aloud to me on my deathbed. And it’s not actually – it’s too mixed up in critique of capitalism, celebrity and catholics – but it is extremely beautiful. I mean, some of the writing, yes, but also the idea of the sustaining meaning through friendship and without giving away the ending, of something akin to hope.


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