Preface: I vowed never to read Rooney’s glorified chick-lit again…
I was on an excursion to the Carpathian Mountains, accompanied by my Dacian irredentist comrade from the Blackrock College days, when I received a call at the foot of the Mountain.
It was the notorious Sally Rooney simp, a man so sick that he actually enjoys (a form of masochism?) reading her work: Ciaran Brennan. He mumbled: “Ulick…Sally has a new book out”.
Apologising to my friend from ‘rock, I immediately departed, promising to invite him to Ireland to see which of us could violate the most covid restrictions in the space of a week. Within 24 hours I was back at the Wolf’s Lair: my personal yacht (got it for my 16th, thanks Dad) in Sandycove. Before me lay a copy of Rooney’s latest literary endeavour, ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’.
Fueled by a mix of coke, roid rage, and myopic determination, I finished the book and my review in a single day. Unfortunately, my review was deemed “unpublishable” and “too schizo” by the Burkean’s editorial staff due to my extended meditation (drawing on the works of Grant, de Gobineau, and Woltmann) on the topic of Sally Rooney’s facial attributes. So much for the Burkean’s claim to be the “Home of Free Speech in Ireland”.
After contemplating literary harakiri, I decided to re-write the article to make it more palatable. The following, therefore, represents a diluted version of what I originally intended.
The Feminine Mystique
“I dread to imagine what kind of faces I was making” – Sally Rooney, ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’
Sally Rooney is the most successful Irish novelist of the last decade. From ‘Conversations with Friends’ to the latest addition to her corpus, Sally has gone from success to success. The television adaptation of Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ was a hit among international and Irish audiences, and undoubtedly the adaption of ‘Conversations with Friends’ will also do well.
In view of this, I was quite surprised when I read Róisín Ingle’s recent interview with Rooney. More jarring than Rooney’s answers were the pictures of Rooney it contained.
The common denominator between each picture was her facial expression: a collage of boredom, indifference, subtle spite, and clandestine resent. Though difficult to pin down which of the aforementioned feelings she experienced, it’s clear she wasn’t happy. Why? What was Wrong?
Some among the audience will protest: Rooney’s facial expression is an utter contrivance. She’s not down or angry. It’s simply a pose used by Rooney to confer credibility to herself, to trick her readers into believing she’s a serious, brooding, and mature writer, rather than just an overgrown teenage girl LARPing as one. However, as the Burkean’s foremost respecter of female writers, I cannot morally abide by this contention.
Rooney’s despondent expression spurs one to consider the condition of successful women in the Modern World. In 1963, Betty Friedan wrote a text which served as the stimulus for the rise of second wave Feminism: ‘The Feminine Mystique’. It embodied a feeling of alleged discontent among American women.
Despite being granted de jure equality decades prior, American women still faced cultural barriers which hindered their ascension in the social order. It was this vestige of patriarchy that feminists, such as Friedan, viewed as anathema. Notwithstanding the alleged mundanity and soullessness of post-war American suburban life for throngs of house wives, it is pertinent to ask if their present state of being is any better?
It’s at this juncture that it’s appropriate to return to Rooney’s facial expression and ask: is Rooney satisfied with being a successful career woman? Despite her many achievements, her face reveals a dearth of fulfillment. In her latest novel, as will be demonstrated further on, Rooney edges toward views regarding womanhood and politics which are, from a left wing perspective, somewhat reactionary. A repudiation of the girl boss ideal?
Is being a global inspiration to pant suit adorned HR managers really, to quote Conan the Barbarian, “what is best in life”? Wouldn’t Sally rather be renowned for having 5 kids by the age of thirty? To invoke Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply”.
Given that the director of Normal People, Lenny Abrahamson, read my article on the show, it’s not implausible that Sally did also. If she did, there’s a chance she may read this article. Therefore, I’ve decided to include a picture of my physique to alleviate the sad look on her face.
Rooney’s Depiction of Perpetual Adolescence: Cuckoldry and Femoid Pseudo-Problems on Full Display
“We are the generation without happiness, without a home… thus we are the generation without God, because we are the generation without ties, without a past, without identity” – Wolfgang Borchert, ‘The Man Outside’
‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ follows the lives of four Irish millennials – Alice, Simon, Eileen, and Felix – traversing that interregnum period between the youthful excesses and indulgences of their 20s and the reality of becoming middle-aged.
The characters, each in their own unique manner, exemplify the decadence peculiar to the contemporary world. For instance, Simon – Eileen’s perennial fixation – is a left-wing Catholic, more committed to not appearing homophobic and intolerant than showing fidelity to the teachings of Christ.
He’s the most consistently successful of the four, both financially (though in this regard Alice supersedes him) and socially. Engaging in frequent, lecherous flings with girls a decade his junior, he evokes the ire of women his age. However, he is by no means a chad. With an air of contentment, Simon allows his younger girlfriend to see other men.
Typical of cuckolds, he works as a policy adviser for a left-wing parliamentary group. His occupation has furnished him a comfortable life in the city. Naturally, the organisation is preoccupied, as of late, with liaising with bodies that specialise in refugee issues – a topic that frequently surfaces in Rooney’s book. Interestingly, Rooney, at no point, mentions the plethora of native Dubs bereft of domicile on our streets.
Alice’s boyfriend, Felix, is far less interesting. And thus can be summed up in a single sentence: Felix is a bisexual, working class, fedora tipping atheist; a proletarian redditor, in summation. Rooney grafts occasional left-wing beliefs – such as expressing that Simon is sound for helping refugees – onto Felix in order to dissuade the audience from assuming his uncouth and laddish behaviour indicates reactionary sympathies.
The anxieties and issues which attend the transition from young adulthood to being middle-aged are encapsulated most acutely in the characters of Elieen and Alice. Of the two, Eileen showed the most potential during her adolescence and college years. However, such potential was never fulfilled. Her present condition is captured by a caustic text from her sister: “do I really want to hear about how immature I am from someone who’s stuck in a shitty job making no money and living in a kip at age 30”.
A further worry for Eileen is fertility. In an email, she asks if Alice ever worries about her biological clock. Although she copes by saying that children have never been a major priority, Eileen concedes that at the age of 30 “there isn’t anyone queuing up to help me fulfil this biological function”. Moreover, she admits that life could have been better had she married Simon at 19 and had children with him.
Alice, in contrast Eileen, is far more financially successful. Nevertheless, despite being a millionaire novelist, Alice’s life is scarcely more fulfilled. She’s dependent on prozac – lamentably common among teenage girls, their college-aged counterparts, and sterile girl bosses – and has a history of mental health breakdowns, which she speaks of in vague terms.
For contemporary women, the mirage of internal decrepitude is the fashion of the day, preferable to appearing stable. To do so is to condemn oneself, within the peer group, to occupy a position that often goes unnoticed: the normal friend, bereft of problems which require incessant group fawning and attention. This deficit of attention, in turn, leads the normal friend to contrive faux-mental pathologies in an effort to seek attentional recompense from the group – in the context of the novel: Alice’s “nervous breakdown” (press x to doubt).
More noticeable is her frequent posture as uncaring, detached, and cold when around men – a transparently false act in order to conform to some idealised notion of a pant-suit adorned career woman who successfully traverses male spaces. Alice mirrors the arch-girl boss, Sally Rooney, in this regard. Alice’s cultured, university-derived pretense has even engendered a chasm – induced by her intellectual vanity – between herself and her uncultured parents.
Despite their disparate natures, the four characters mirror each other in certain ways. The common denominator isn’t that all four long to be young eternally, and thus hate the prospects of aging. Rather, what makes them similar is that they’re products of a society which has deprived them – due to financial factors and perverted morals – from attaining the prerequisites of a normal, adult life.
They are stuck as perpetual adolescents. None are poor on the surface, having access to luxuries such as phones and the internet. But the commodities of real value – property and family – are almost always out of reach. And if attainable by financial means, the rot of societal decadence remains, and thus sours otherwise good fruit.
Although it contains significant qualifications, the following extract from the book captures the malaise of contemporary millennial life:
“People our age used to get married and have children and conduct love affairs, and now everyone is still single at thirty and lives with housemates they never see. Traditional marriage was obviously not fit for purpose, and almost ubiquitously ended in one kind of failure or another, but at least it was an effort at something, and not just a sad sterile foreclosure on the possibility of life”.
The Racial Origins of Rooney’s Hatred of Chads and Seductive Sadies
“I keep encountering this person, who is myself, and I hate her with all my energy. I hate her ways of expressing herself, I hate her appearance, and I hate her opinions about everything. And yet when other people read about her, they believe that she is me.” – Sally Rooney, ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’
In my article on ‘Normal People’ I pondered whether Rooney views herself as a “frigid, cuckold, incel, onlooker, not worthy of male attention”. With the release of ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’, we may have an answer.
Early on, Simon discusses with Eileen the woman he’s been seeing – the divide between author and protagonist slips when Eileen inquires: “She’s not another one of these twenty-two-year-old Scandinavian women, is she?”.
Is this Sally’s subconscious anxiety? Does she have re-occuring nightmares about being cucked by a bombshell, young, spritely, seductive courtesan SADIE from Sweden?
If one was to look to the ancient racial stock from which Rooney descends, the genesis of her night terrors would be revealed. Rooney may not have considered it yet, but to South Dublin nativists it is obvious that she is being haunted by her racial memories.
It can be speculated that a distant maternal ancestor of Rooney’s, from around 1123 A.D, was cucked by a Norse Slave girl who was sold to a Gaelic chieftain. The love-hate relationship with GAA chads similarly has its origin at this juncture. Her scornful ancestor, the only literate femoid in Connacht, resented that the aforementioned picked an illiterate Nordic babe over her and her mundane musings about being a sterile, wine-addicted woman in her 20s; some things never change.
Rooney Viewed from the Right
“I have been thinking lately about the ancient world coming back to us, emerging through strange ruptures in time, through the colossal speed and waste and godlessness of the twentieth century” – Sally Rooney, ‘Beautiful World, Where Are You’ – it’s cliché, I know, but I’ll say it anyway: BAP book out how long?
I oscillated between boredom and anger (at myself, mostly, for reading the book) whilst delving into Rooney’s latest offering.
That being said, I’ll admit that I occasionally enjoyed the email correspondence between Alice and Eileen. This owes to the frequent discussion of political (and politically adjacent) issues, thus offering an insight into Rooney’s beliefs.
Although I don’t respect her craft (I renounced literature and the pretense of culture at the age of 19 after a bad experience reading a Mishima novel), I’ll concede that Rooney can be, at times, quite perceptive.
For instance, Rooney is well ahead of the Thatcher fetishists in Young Fine Gael. She comprehends that Capitalism – based on the laissez-faire principle – is inimical to the Organic social order conceived of by conservative thinkers, such as Othmar Spann, Oswald Spengler, and Adam Müller.
This take is undoubtedly tired and stale at this juncture, – even Marx was cognisant that Capitalism and the vestiges of conservative, feudal life were in opposition to one another – and certainly it should be made clear that Rooney is unaware of the intellectual legacy of the aforesaid standard bearers of the authentic right wing. Nevertheless, it’s quite impressive when one considers that Rooney is a mainstream Irish female novelist.
Despite being on the Left, Rooney discerns that victim groups gain strength – socially, politically, and financially – in modernity through their, real or perceived, trauma. She states: “relations between victim and oppressor are not historical so much as theological, in that the victims are transcendently good and the oppressors are personally evil. For this reason, an individual’s membership of a particular identity group is a question of unsurpassed ethical significance”. Certainly reminiscent of a certain English firebrand orator, content-wise.
God is a frequent theme throughout their discussions. The book becomes gradually less critical of belief in a personal deity as it proceeds. Furthermore, Rooney vicariously laments through her characters that all values are quashed in absence of God. Without God, Rooney inquires, to “what standard are we appealing? Before what judge do we argue our case?”.
It should be made clear that Rooney isn’t a tradcath reactionary by any means. Although she may lament “that modern living compares poorly with the old ways of life”, the next paragraph is bound to feature a qualification along the following lines: “This nostalgic impulse is of course extremely powerful, and has recently been harnessed to great effect by reactionary and fascist political movements”. Presumably, she never heard of the Italian Futurists.
Nevertheless, that Rooney’s text contains redemptive aspects, politically speaking, is pleasantly surprising given that it’s a mainstream novel. It can be said that Rooney’s shift toward positions which are amenable to the Right is a symptom of her hobbit complex.
In an email to Alice, Eileein states that “rather than worrying and theorising about the state of the world… I should put my energy into living and being happy”. And what is her idea of happiness? “[A] house with flowers and trees around it, and a river nearby, and a room full of books, and someone there to love me, that’s all”.
Is this not proof of Sally’s longing to live like a Hobbit, in a world of reactionary stability and wholesomeness? Like Saoirse McHugh, who seems to have embraced the cottage core lifestyle, Rooney dreams of escaping into a world of South Dublin creatine abusing bodybuilders and Crannogs.
Concluding Remarks: Debate Me on the…
“When the May rain comes
All of this shall be washed away
When the May rain comes…” –
Current 93, ‘When the May Rain Comes’
Normally, I’d conclude my essay with a brief outline of its essence. And if I’m feeling lazy or tired (I typically write my pieces at 4 AM), I pay deference and leave the last word to some deceased racist writer from the 19th century.
Instead, I will finish this piece with a proposal: I want to have a debate with Sally “My Sadie 4 Life” Rooney. My proposed topic is the following: what role should women play in society – though I’m open (within reason) to change the topic if you’d prefer.
Given your background as the “number one competitive debater on the continent of Europe”, it should be child’s play to out-argue a low-functioning autistic whose only experience debating is on discord calls, right?
Well, maybe. But your literary peer, Naoise Dolan, didn’t share such a sentiment. She never responded to a debate proposal made a few months back.
If this debate is to go ahead, I want the moderator to be fair and impartial; a figure renowned for his self-control and consummate professionalism. I want Ethan Ralph to be the moderator and I want it to take place on the home of internet intellectualism, the Killstream. Hosting it on the Killstream will guarantee an impartial and large audience. The crowd at your upcoming talk with Emma Dabiri will pale in comparison, quality and quantity wise. Dabiri lacks the finesse of Ralph.
The people want Rooney’s faux-depressive-pout, Ralph’s Gunt, and Ulick’s Genova-inspired Physique on the same stream. The ball’s in your court, Rooney.