‘It Was Like I’d Never Done It Before’: How Sally Rooney Wrote Again. Her first two books, “Conversations With Friends” and “Normal People,” made her more famous than she liked. For her latest, “Beautiful World, Where Are You,” she asked herself what a novel is and why she’s taking on another one.
By Lauren Christensen For New York Times
“Every day I wonder why my life has turned out this way,” a millionaire novelist named Alice writes to her friend Eileen in “Beautiful World, Where Are You,” out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux on Sept. 7. “I never advertised myself as a psychologically robust person, capable of withstanding extensive public inquiries into my personality and upbringing.”
Neither did the novel’s author, Sally Rooney. “This sounds terrible, but I’m trying not to have a meltdown about doing more publicity,” she said during a video interview in July from a hotel room in Dublin. She’d taken the train in that morning from Castlebar, a town on the other side of Ireland where she lives with her husband, John Prasifka.
“I like my controlled life,” she said. “I live in the countryside, and I like to be kind of secluded, and to have my work as the main thing.”
Unfortunately for her, that level of isolation is no longer possible.
Since the release of her 2017 debut, “Conversations With Friends,” and her Booker Prize-longlisted “Normal People” in 2018, Rooney, 30, has become the kind of best-selling, critically praised author whose popularity somehow eclipses the books themselves, her name an easy shorthand for a certain cultural sensibility, even to those who haven’t read a word she’s written.
Images by Ellius Grace for The New York Times
She has been called, for example, the first great millennial novelist, and “Salinger for the Snapchat generation.” She drew such a large audience to a Brooklyn reading in 2019 that it was relocated from a bookstore to a nearby church. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that advance copies of “Beautiful World” were selling on eBay for $200. An n+1 essay lamented the state of book criticism today: “Our reader doesn’t understand why a review of Roland Luxner’s ‘The Passenger’s Brother’ spends so much time on novels by Sally Rooney.”
“Beautiful World, Where Are You” focuses on the friendship between Alice and Eileen, an editorial assistant at a literary magazine, as they enter their 30s and develop romantic relationships: Alice with a warehouse worker named Felix, and Eileen with her childhood friend Simon, a political adviser.
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