Monday, September 20

Guide to reading the phenomenon Sally Rooney

The publishing sector marked in red the date of September 9 when Literature Random House chose that day to publish the new novel of the phenomenon Sally Rooney, entitled Where are you, beautiful world in Spanish with translation by Inga Pellisa Díaz. (Periscopi will publish it in Catalan, On ets, mon bonic, translated by Octavi Gil Pujol). It is a launch full of expectation, within an autumn that comes full of news from real heavyweights, at least among its potential audience – the millennial generation of which it is supposed to be a relevant voice, at least according to its editorials and part of criticism.

Sally Rooney’s generational and feminist literary phenomenon: “I don’t tolerate authority very well”

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But the promotional campaign that has been carried out here has no comparison with those that have been deployed by its Anglo-Saxon publishers. 50 UK bookstores – 20 independent and 30 Waterstones chain stores – will open earlier than normal on 7 September, the day the book is published. In addition, and among other events, on the 10th an ephemeral shop will be launched in a gallery in the London neighborhood of Shoreditch, in which in addition to selling the writer’s titles, it will offer writing workshops, reading clubs, calligraphy classes and of candle making.

If you take into account the level of fanaticism it unleashes, the audience may be characterized as the characters in his novels or as Rooney herself, in the style of Harry Potter fans. There will be lucky ones who have the promotion pack of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, their North American publisher – a yellow hat, a cloth bag, pencils and pencil sharpeners – and some of them may even have bought one of the copies that the readers of the publishers – those who read a book before whether it is published to advise or not its publication – illegally sold on the internet by hundreds of dollars or even the bag.

Such a red carpet for the arrival of a book in stores agrees with those who point out that the writer has become a phenomenon. And this, although it is beneficial from a business point of view, does not have to be for her prestige as an author, despite the fact that her CV does not raise too much doubt: she won the Irish Novel of the Year and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and Women’s Prize for Fiction with her second novel, Normal people, which the Hulu platform adapted for television. This same service of streaming is repeating the play with Conversations between friends, her first book, which won the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award.

Some will argue that awards are not always synonymous with quality – there are numerous examples – but will immediately come across an argument that defends Rooney’s excellence. The debate about whether her writing really deserves the fame she has earned or is an overrated author sparked in the wake of her first novel, caught fire with her second, and has yet to be resolved when her third is about to come out. Discussions on Twitter, photos on Instagram with the cover of his book (his fandom it is mostly millennial or centennial, remember) and press columns fuel a controversy that may be nothing more than a matter of personal taste, but that exists.

A trial with lawyers and prosecutors

100% has asked voices familiar with Rooney’s work regarding this controversy. For example, the journalist Berta Gómez states at the outset that “the fact of creating a debate in favor or against is already partly captious”: “I have not read anything similar about authors such as Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Javier Marías or Mario Vargas Llosa. They are not the representation of something that can only be said yes or no, they are not a caricature, but they are treated from the complexity required by literature. ”

But since she is asked for her opinion, she explains that for her the best thing about Rooney’s novels is that “conflicts are never explicitly pronounced, in fact she only pulls topics precisely to create a concrete effect, to portray a character “. “In her novels, the affective construction is determined by the hierarchy of class and gender but without that being pronounced. It is very difficult to do so. I also think that she is an exceptional writer for her unusual narrative construction of dialogues,” she adds.

Silvia Nanclares, writer, editor and cultural activist, thinks almost the opposite of Berta Gómez: “I think you have to read on the one hand the phenomenon Sally Rooney and, on the other, her work. For me, it would be necessary to distinguish between the marketing apparatus that It has worked great and the writer of the millennial generation. But if I were to do a blind tasting of Rooney’s work, honestly it would seem very poor to me. His sentences are not simple, they are simple. The creation of characters is very schematic, do not you it makes nothing like a reader work in your head, the plots are super simple. ” Notes that Conversations between friends It seemed to him that “it had a little more grace, it is written with a very interesting lack of prejudice, without wanting to conform to high culture”, but even so “his writing itself leaves me quite cold.”


Nanclares also specifies, faced with the danger of being crossed out as boomer (she is 75 and Rooney is 91), which is not a question of generational difference. Spanish data analyst and activist Míriam Hatibi, born in 1993, is an example that you can be a millennial, but not exactly a defender of Rooney’s work. In one of his interventions in the program of radio Tardeo, expressed that in Normal people: “We were all supposed to fit in but, for example, everyone is white. It tells the story of a boy meets a girl and they also go to college. This is not the voice of a generation.” In addition, regarding the plot: “I had the feeling of having read it a thousand times before. It did not give me the feeling that the characters evolve, but just as they begin, they end”.

The writer and journalist Juanjo Villalba wonders “how many people, among all those who criticize her (and also among those who praise her) have actually read Sally Rooney, or if they have been able to read her cleanly, without being totally contaminated by all the prejudices surrounding this author. ” For him, who is “in favor of Sally”, the author has the virtue of “explaining very simple stories, with which many people of a wide range of ages can feel very identified, but in which she is able to introduce themes or very interesting reflections “. Likewise, it is remarkable “her command of dialogues, her concern for descriptions of the smallest details of the action (which also brings her very close to the cinematographic world) and her intense use of e-mail as a way of knowing the inner thoughts of the characters, which many people have been fascinated by “.


“With Sally Rooney it happens to me that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I think one thing about her work and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, another. I have more objections with Normal people what with Conversations between friends, especially relative to some schematics of the plot and clichés when building, for example, Marianne and her family. Now, I read the fragment of the new novel published by The New Yorker and I felt instantly at home, “says journalist Begoña Gómez Urzáiz. She wants to read the new novel for pure pleasure and to have her own opinion” in the inevitable and inescapable Sally-Rooney-Sí / Sally-Rooney-No debate in which we have been immersed for four years now. “Regarding the phenomenon:” she is not responsible for the expectations that she generates and everything she does, she is not guilty of her fandom, some factions of which can be a bit stomachache, and it is only partially responsible for the campaigns around its releases. ”

The writer Aloma Rodríguez also reads Rooney with pleasure and looks forward to it. Where are you, beautiful world. She is on the defending side of the Irish author, mainly because: “there are many books and if you don’t like Sally Rooney, just don’t read hers.” He does not believe that it is overrated, although he understands who does think so because of the expectations that the label of ‘phenomenon’ always generates. “His first novel, Conversations between friendsIt seemed irregular to me: it had great things and others not so much. Normal people I think it is a rounder, more complex novel where everything is better assembled. He writes sex scenes very well, he is skilled at writing dialogue and above all at constructing an underground story, much less kind than the one seen on the surface. ”

Leticia Vila-Sanjuán, freelance editor and Fulbright scholar, does not hesitate to define herself as a staunch defender of Rooney. She has just finished her latest novel and it seems to her that “her fame is justified because she is an excellent narrator and storyteller. If you also add mastery of prose and ideas of a certain weight behind apparently simple plots, it seems to me that you have a winning combo. ” He figures that “part of the rejection he receives from the literary or intellectual establishment has to do with the fact that in the end they are love stories, friendship stories. It seems to me that there is still a systematic contempt for ‘girl stories’. It is very difficult to deal with that level of expectations, with the pressure of the fashionable young millennial author labels. And yet she continues to make the novels that she wants, of the subjects that are best given to her, with a lot of talent. ”

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