Sally Rooney - out of isolation. The lauded young novelist found writing a third book harder than she expected.

''Every day I wonder why my life has turned out this way,'' a millionaire novelist named Alice writes to her friend Eileen in ''Beautiful World, Where Are You,'' out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux on Sept 7.

''I never advertised myself as a psychologically robust person, capable of withstanding extensive public inquiries into my personality and upbringing.''

Neither did the novel's author, Sally Rooney. ''This sounds terrible, but I'm trying not to have a meltdown about doing more publicity,'' she said during a video interview in July from a hotel room in Dublin. She'd taken the train in that morning from Castlebar; a town on the other side of Ireland where she lives with her husband John Prasifka.

''I like my controlled life,'' she said. ''I live in the countryside, and I like to be kind of secluded, and to have my work as the main thing.''

Unfortunately for her, that level of isolation is no longer possible.

Since the release of her 2017 debut, ''Conversations With Friends,'' and her Booker Prize-longlisted ''Normal People'' in 2018, Rooney, 30, has become the kind of best selling, critically praised author whose popularity somehow eclipses the books themselves, her name an easy shorthand for a certain cultural sensibility, even to those who haven't read a word she's written.

She has been called, for example, the first great millennial novelist, and ''Salinger for the Snapchat generation.'' She drew such a large audience to a Brooklyn reading in 2019 that it was relocated from a bookstore to a nearby church.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that advance copies of ''Beautiful World'' were selling in eBay for $200. An n+1 essay lamented the state of book criticism today : ''Our reader doesn't understand why review of Roland Luxner's ''The Passenger's Brother' spends so much time on novels by Sally Rooney.''

''Beautiful World, Where Are You'' focuses on the friendship between Alice and Eileen, an editorial assistant at a literary magazine as they enter their 30s and develop romantic relationships : Alice with a warehouse worker named Felix, and Eileen with her childhood friend Simon, a political adviser.

Rooney wrote Alice, who's recently been hospitalized for a psychiatric break after doing publicity for her two novels, as a way of working through a level of attention the author herself found difficult to endure.

''I hope I don't regret saying this, but I think that is why I had to write this book,'' Rooney said. ''Because my life had become so dominant for a time by the success of my previous two.''

That said, she didn't intend to make the jaded millionaire the story's center of gravity. ''My dad fixed phone lines for a living,'' she said. ''I'm not from a background where people like Felix aren't in my family.''

Rooney knows how many writers would kill to be in her position. But that's her point : Everyone loses, except capitalism. ''The culture around authorship is not really benefiting anyone,'' she said, ''even the people whom it appears to be benefiting the most.

Financially speaking, the Celebrity Industrial Complex is benefitting Rooney handsomely. A Marxist, she thinks she should get paid to write books, just not ''multiples more'' than Prasifka makes teaching high school math, or even more than anyone else gets paid to what they do.

Rooney began ''Beautiful World'' in 2018, before the release of ''Normal People.'' She continued writing it on a fellowship at Cullman Center at the New York Public Library in the fall of 2019. It was the first time she'd ever lived abroad.

By then, her first novels had brought her literary fame, but the peak pandemic, April 2020 release of the BBC Three/Hulu series ''Normal People'' took it to another level.

''It almost terrifies me, looking back, how little I knew about what I was getting myself in for,'' she said of co-writing the television adaption, and for the ''overwhelming'' discourse that attended it. [Recall with caution : Connel's silver chain.]

Once the series ran, Rooney went back to ''Beautiful World,'' started working on the early parts of the novel again, and thought, 'At this point, I am more famous than Alice,'' she said.

On Alice's first date, with Felix, he has no idea who she is. ''I don't know if that could happen to me anymore,'' Rooney said. ''My life has become so crazy I can't even put it in a book.''

The World Students Society thanks author Lauren Christensen.


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