A novel in essays that locates a “romance” within the mesh of electronic communication.
So I didn't call you: instead I posted a new avatar of myself without my habitual dark glasses. I have learned: an image, any image, is a blind. All avatars give different information, illusions of contact called Telepresence, none of them the real thing. You texted me, 3 am, from some station … As though it made any difference. But it did. —from Break.up
In this “novel in essays,” Joanna Walsh simultaneously flees and pursues an ambiguous partner in an affair conducted mostly online. Traversing Europe, she awaits emails and texts and PMs, awash in her dreams, offering succinct meditations on connection and communication. If Marguerite Duras situated the telephone as the twentieth century's preferred hopeless form of connection, Walsh pinpoints the nodal points of a “romance” within today's mesh of electronic communication.
As Deborah Levy observed recently, “Joanna Walsh is fast becoming one of our most important writers.” Her 2015 book Hotel, an investigation of transience conducted through hotel reviews, was described by The Paris Review as “a slim, sharp meditation on hotels and desires. [Walsh is] funny throughout, even as she documents the dissolution of her marriage and the peculiar brand of alienation on offer in lavish places.”
Praise for Joanna Walsh “Walsh's writing has intellectual rigor and bags of formal bravery.” —The Financial Times
“Hotel feels like something you want to endlessly quote: sharp, knowing, casually erudite … there is power and an affecting gravitas in what Walsh does with detail.” —Sydney Review of Books
“Walsh is a sublimely elegant writer … artful and intelligent.” —The New Statesman
Joanna Walsh's work has appeared in Granta, Narrative, The Stinging Fly, and Guernica, among other publications. She is the author of Fractals, a collection; the non-fiction work Hotel; Grow a Pair; her most recent collection, Vertigo, which was shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize; and the digitally groundbreaking novella Seed.
A novel about love in digital spaces that takes the time to breathe, exhaling into the muggy air of real places. A bereft protagonist is consoled by the energy of philosophical fragments and messy objects. Walsh has surgical expertise in the dissection of online excitements and misdirections but puts us in the sensual world of dior lipsticks and perfecto jackets. The result is bracing. It's a new real where our emotions are always betwixt and between our devices and what feels like the ache in our heart.
Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science, MIT; author of Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Machines and Less from Each Other, and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age