Greeted as the First Great Millennial Author, and Wary of the Attention

Her mass-market success is clearly still a little disorienting. “Light and sparkling is the phrase that has been used,” she said. “I can’t complain if people think it’s sparkling, but then there’s a sense that wasn’t what I set out to do.”

.. She found her tribe as a competitive debater — at 22, she was the top debater in Europe — and settled into what she would later describe as “an analytic way of living.”

.. They are battered, as well, by economic conditions. The 2008 financial crash, and its catastrophic effect on Ireland’s young people, hangs like an invisible backdrop to all of Ms. Rooney’s fiction. Her own friends, after receiving prestigious degrees, took retail jobs, or went on welfare, scrambling to pay exorbitant Dublin rents.

“In my parents’ generation, or even before that, people who are in their 30s or 40s, you’d go to college and it was easier to get a job in one of the big law firms, and you’ll be set up — you’ll be able to get a mortgage,” said Ms. Rooney’s partner, John Prasifka, 25, a high school math teacher. “Our generation is seeing that’s not worked out for us.”

Earlier generations may have naturally shed their leftist beliefs as they lofted into the middle class, he added. But with their cohort, he said, it is difficult to see that happening.

.. For 10 years, Ms. Rooney has delighted in Twitter, trafficking in cerebral self-mockery (“♫ getting into lengthy Facebook wars about Greek debt / using words like “creditors” and “Eurogroup” in my actual free time / why ♫”); earnest declarations (“the Irish state has always been organized on the unpaid labor of women”); and too-cool-for-school banter (“this New Statesman piece from last year is so bad I laughed until I literally wept.”) Ms. Rooney even gave her character Frances, in “Conversation With Friends,” a “Twitter voice,” which she described as “a tone of casual self-revelation that deprives others of the ability to criticize.”

.. During an interview in Dublin, she worried aloud that novelists are over-glamorized, and said newspapers should write more profiles of nurses or bus drivers.

 

This Is Your Brain on Sex: Krista Tippett Interviews Helen Fisher

MS. TIPPETT: I’m Krista Tippett, and this is On Being. Today, in a wide-ranging, personal conversation with the anthropologist/explorer of the science of love, sex, and marriage, Helen Fisher. She’s well known for her TED talks and her research for Match.com, where she’s chief science advisor. When we fall in love, it turns out, it’s dopamine that makes us feel obsessed with the object of our desire, while chemicals released during sex activate a profound sense of bonding.

MS. TIPPETT: Another thing from your science that I was applying to that is you talked about how casual sex doesn’t really remain casual.

MS. FISHER: It’s not casual. Unless you’re so drunk you can’t remember.

MS. TIPPETT: And why? And why? I mean, how you can explain it, it’s because of what is set off in your brain and your body conspires to make you start feeling attached to this person.

MS. FISHER: Or in love, or both.

MS. TIPPETT: Or in love. Yeah.

MS. FISHER: Right. And, when you have orgasm, you get a real flood of oxytocin and vasopressin. And these are the basic bodily and brain systems for attachment.

MS. TIPPETT: Right. It’s like what mother’s get when they love their babies. It’s a primal…

MS. FISHER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, don’t have sex with somebody you don’t want to feel something for. I mean, people can do what they want to do. I’m not in the “should” business. But the bottom line is, if you don’t want to get attached to somebody, it’s easier to not sleep with them. [laughs]

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs] Right.

MS. FISHER: Because you might end up being attached to somebody who really does not fit into your life.

MS. TIPPETT: And I think as — again, in this new world — I mean, I grew up in a very conservative, strict, Southern Baptist — you know, small town where you were saving yourself for marriage, like, and this was just an absolute. And now I kind of look back on that and see it as helpful in a way. Like it provided boundaries that were good so that you didn’t — I mean, I actually see these rules at a point.

MS. FISHER: Right. Human animal needs boundaries. And here we are in a society now where we don’t have any rules. Nobody knows what to do.

MS. TIPPETT: Right. And even in very religious cultures like that, where people are kind of crafting their path towards marriage with these religious rules, I still think all the messages that are coming at them about who you marry, and about the romance of that are coming from movies with happy endings, and all the love songs that we just — that we’re awash in at that age.

MS. FISHER: I remember…

MS. TIPPETT: And I wanted to ask you about that because I guess one of my kind of deeper concerns here with this subject is that somehow — I love your idea that this knowledge is power. And somehow our brains take us through these several, very powerful stages to getting to the point of being with other people. But somehow we need to figure out how to be intelligent and caring in this matter of long-term love and it seems like we have almost — it seems like our brains don’t do that for us.

The Church is tempted by power and obsessed with sex

It is church leadership, from the popes all the way down, that hasn’t been able to tell right from wrong. Yet how can this be, in an institution at least nominally dedicated to precisely that task? I think there are two interrelated reasons.

The first is an age-old problem. Since its alliance with the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, the Catholic hierarchy has been tempted by power. It has cloaked itself in mystery to rule by edict rather than by example. At root, this scandal springs from idolatry: Bishops employ secrecy and deceit to promote the heresy that the priesthood is superior to the people in the pews. The words of John A. Hardon, a Jesuit priest, are as true now as when he wrote them 20 years ago: “Most of the chaos in the Catholic Church today is due to the pride of priests.”

.. The second is the church’s unfortunate negative obsession with sex — a problem it shares with many conservative Protestant congregations. To a broken world they offer a gospel of no-nos. The church exalts, from the Virgin Mary to the parish priest, the sexless life, as though the very engine of God’s creation were a sign of spiritual failure and source of shame.