In Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This (Riverhead, Feb.), a social media maven comes home to deal with a family crisis.
Humor provides a key plot point. What’s the appeal of internet jokes?
If you’re going to construct a fake internet, you have to make it as funny as the internet itself. And that’s going to be really difficult because the internet is written communally. That problem really attracted me. The way I look at humor in the second half of the novel is different. This thing that we thought was a defense against the world, this kind of joke that we evolved to fight against the forces that seemed absolutely unfightable—you have to look at it and think, what were we doing?
How has your relationship to the internet changed over time?
I think a person like me, and many people like me, went to live on the internet because they experience some sort of discomfort existing in a human body. I think that’s very true for neuro- divergent people, for queer people. I think a lot of us went to the internet because it was a place where we could decide what our bodies were. Starting with the period when Priestdaddy [Lockwood’s 2017 memoir] came out, I experienced a string of traumatic upheavals in my own life. What you learn in those times is that it isn’t possible to be on the internet at all.
For this novel, I wanted to look at periods where you’re forced off the internet. You inhabit your body more when you’re in crisis, or when someone you love is in crisis, and I think you need to go to the scene where things are happening. You need to support a human body. You need to be doing something with someone who is alive, or who is soon to be not alive. It feels different that you spend so much of your life in the internet, that place that you did go to decide what your body looks like. You’re brought back instead to what your body is in the world in a very sort of physical immediacy, and then you just sort of have to deal with things.
What’s it been like to finish up a book in 2020?
I was finalizing the book when I had the coronavirus. One of the things that happened after I recovered was this three-week period of total euphoria, and my book was due. I just went absolutely crazy on it. I wanted to add all these parts. For a long time I had a series of nightmares in which I added these parts that I didn’t remember to the novel when I had coronavirus, and I had to take them out. It was very interesting. For me, it has been nice to have something to focus on. Any sort of project that you can be working on, any real work you can do, that’s to the good. That’s what you want in this particular year.