Topics of Conversation

Topics of Conversation

By Miranda Popkey
224 pages
January 2020


For readers of Sally Rooney, Rachel Cusk, Lydia Davis, and Jenny Offill--a compact tour de force about sex, violence, and self-loathing from a ferociously talented new voice in fiction

Miranda Popkey's first novel is about desire, disgust, motherhood, loneliness, art, pain, feminism, anger, envy, guilt--written in language that sizzles with intelligence and eroticism. The novel is composed almost exclusively of conversations between women--the stories they tell each other, and the stories they tell themselves, about shame and love, infidelity and self-sabotage--and careens through twenty years in the life of an unnamed narrator hungry for experience and bent on upending her life. Edgy, wry, shot through with rage and despair, Topics of Conversation introduces an audacious and immensely gifted new novelist.

"Sally Rooney-esque... Popkey's sentences careen breathlessly as her halting, staccato prose mirrors the "churning" within the narrator's mind... Her manner of parceling out information evoke at times the fragmentary and diaristic sensibilities of Jenny Offill's "Dept. of Speculation"... a shrewd record of the act of unflinchingly circling these amorphous notions of pain, desire and control."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Slim but potent... has the flavor of Rachel Cusk... provocative... sure to spark conversation."

--The New Yorker

“Popkey’s lyrical debut novel reads like a series of short stories: Over the span of 20 years, an unnamed narrator has conversations with an eclectic set of women — conversations about shame and love, sexuality and power. Envy and guilt. Motherhood. Loneliness. The slim book is smart and raw, and Popkey dives head-on into difficult, well — how else to say it? — topics of conversation.”
--The Washington Post

“Masterfully controlled, delightfully chilly”
--The Boston Globe

"Icily intelligent... A novel full of astute descriptions of wanting and being wanted, of desire that contradicts, demands, eats itself, turns inside out, subsides into a kind of aching tenderness... The questions it asks are about how women make sense — or don’t, or can’t — of the ways they’ve been limited, controlled and intoxicated by male standards of desire, make reading “Topics of Conversation” as thrilling as being told a secret."
--The San Francisco Chronicle