Category: Book Report

Sally Rooney: “At the Clinic”

This was recently released online for the first time by The White Review, and while reading it I had a lot of questions: is this canon? Where did it fall in the timeline of writing Normal People?

This interview with Sally Rooney in the New Statesman sheds some light on the timeline question:

The book started as a short story, “At The Clinic”, which sees a 23-year-old Connell driving Marianne to the dentist. “I kept wanting to write about these characters who were in their early twenties,” Rooney tells me, “and their relationship had this texture to it because of their history. Eventually, I thought, what if I just went back and just told their story from the beginning, chronologically.”

I like the ambiguity of Normal People’s ending, and I wonder if Sally Rooney still feels like this is where Marianne and Connell would end up. It would certainly fit the pattern of their relationship throughout the book, although as a reader I also have hope that the characters would start to work on their communication.

I liked At the Clinic — Rooney’s writing here follows the same approach from Normal People, balancing what her characters are feeling versus what they say to each other. Rooney is so good at drawing out the tension between the internal life of her characters and their external words and actions — there’s a rhythm in her writing sometimes, where she has these short, ambiguous exchanges between her characters that play against the longer internal passages. All this stuff is happening underwater, but only a tiny bit of it makes it to the surface:

For a moment she pretends to be engaged in reading. He can see she’s deciding what to do or say. The workings of Marianne’s mind become transparent to him in brief flashes like this before they recede again.

Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers

Writing for The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker tries to uncover the factors that lead to folks joining the “reading class.”

This made me laugh in recognition:

“Introverts seem to be a little bit more likely to do a lot of leisure-time reading”

“I’m Parenting Right Now” is my new motto:

Reading will seem more like chocolate cake if it’s something that parents themselves take part in happily and regularly. “When I’m sitting there on my couch, reading a book, and my kids are doing their own thing, I like to think, ‘I’m parenting right now—they can see me reading this book,’” Russo told me.

This ignores the very real possibility that one would have to actually move to a larger, more expensive space to accommodate the influx of cheap books:

Paul also advised that parents seed books throughout the house, not stash them “preciously in your own bedroom, away from everyone else, or in one [specific] area of the house.” It may seem expensive to assemble a large home library, but Paul points out that it’s cheap to buy used books and free to borrow lots of them. “You don’t need a lot of money to fill your home with books … [and] it’s very hard to have a bored child when there are always books around,” she said.

All kidding aside, it’s been one of the biggest pleasures of my life to share a love of reading with my whole family, and to look up most afternoons and evenings and see everyone tucked away in their own corner, lost in a book.