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In the London of Hot Stew, Soho appears like a single-celled organism and Mozley draws us, at a leisurely pace, through a microscope and into a narrow but deep view of London.
Mozley splits the narrative into several first-person accounts, each character representing a particular stratum of the city’s densely packed social structure, but even as they are far removed from each other in socioeconomic terms, there is the constant sense that while you view the world through one character, another is likely to be perched a few bar stools down, or on the other side of a window, or has just run by.
The majority of the action in the novel takes place on one block in Soho, precipitated when a giant corporation resorts to intimidation tactics to evict a group of sex workers operating legally out of a building the corporation owns. As the effects ripple out to touch the lives of a homeless magician who drifts on and off frame, his nemesis, a man whose delusions of grandeur include the belief that he’s an Archbishop, the woman representing the largest interest in the corporation, her driver and bodyguard, a young lawyer from the firm that represents her company, a gay actor torn over the toxic masculinity of the role that could change his career, and so on, including the tiny snail that escapes the restaurant on the first floor of the building that began it all, Mozley creates an image that is like nothing so much as the enlarged inset of a map.
Dense and richly detailed, Hot Stew is one of the most rewarding novels I’ve read this year.
—Sarah, Longfellow Books
The last few years have seen a number of books “about the internet,” both fiction and nonfiction, and all have run the risk of becoming irrelevant as soon as smartphone technology changes even slightly, or a new social media platform comes into being. Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This is one of the ones that successfully circumvents this problem. The novel’s second-person narration follows the protagonist as she experiences social media and the internet as though by osmosis. Referred to only as “the Portal,” the internet and its inhabitants swirl around her, her attention snagging now and then on the odd piece of content, which must be processed and engaged with quickly, almost instinctively, before it stops mattering.
Strung together from flashes and impressions, the narrative follows the protagonist, who has achieved fame through the virality of her social media posts, as she travels the world for speaking engagements, addressing crowds of followers, even as she doubts whether she really is an expert—can she be an expert if her entire relationship with the phenomenon in question is purely reactive? Or is she uniquely possessed of a natural instinct for this kind of exploration?
All the while, the material world pushes on the edges of this intangible realm—a “dictator” scrambles to power in an extremely thinly veiled analog to our very own vile and smarmy tyrant, and his depredations filter down from the global to the painfully personal.
In her previous writing—her criticism and her wonderful memoir, Priestdaddy—Lockwood has established herself as one of the smartest, funniest writers writing today, and this, her first novel, only reinforces it. But in No One Is Talking About This, Lockwood applies her wonderful turn of phrase to tragedy and how it intrudes on our lives, expanding to fill our horizons; but this devastation—smallest of small consolations, perhaps—creates the conditions for compassion and the kind of grace that can transcend difference.
-- Sarah, Longfellow Books