Reading Sally Rooney

Edited by Gloria Fisk

Introduction: Sally Rooney Cluster

Gloria Fisk

The Sweet Stuff

Claire Jarvis

So-Called Normal People

Peter Coviello

Sally Rooney’s Couple Form

Sarah Brouillette

Victoria Falls

Jordan Alexander Stein

What Are Feelings For?

Gloria Fisk

Wet Newspaper

Matthew Hart

Race and Romantic Realism

Jane Hu

Conversations with Friends about Normal People

Sam Huber


Sally Rooney is the harbinger of a literary world yet to come! Or she is evidence of that world in its crumbling decline. It depends who you ask.

Upon her entry to a global stage, she is hailed with fanfare by critics who recognize her as:

  The literary voice of her Millennial generation;

  Our Jane Austen + J. D. Salinger + Karl Marx as he is read by the light of Instagram;

  Another pretty white lady novelist, self-styled as a revolutionary; and

  The author of novels that look exceptionally good on TV.

This cluster isn't here to debate the worthiness of Sally Rooney to all of this the hype, the money, the critical acclaim. She has it, that's a fact.

We're here to witness it and wonder what it means. We think it means something that this young Irish writer speaks so well to so many readers Millennial and not; Irish and not; white-cis-het-woman and not about matters of importance to the writers in this cluster, too: capitalism, class, sex, gender, violence, feminism, power, love.

In these terms and others, we wish for the world to be so much better than it is, and we filter our wishes somewhat inevitably through our expertise in literary study.

We worry about the sufficiency of this whole enterprise to the demands of our year of 2020.

Sally Rooney gives us an occasion to worry together. Reading her small oeuvre as an indicator and an arbiter of forces that swirl powerfully around us, we've found occasions to think about the politics that attend the intimacies we make in and around books.

After that, we diverge.

Past clusters