ABOUT HALF AN HOUR INTO OUR CONVERSATION, Sally Rooney and I begin talking about the end of the world as we know it. But maybe it’s best to rewind a bit. When I arrive at the Library Bar, in Rooney’s adopted hometown of Dublin, the 28-year-old author is waiting for me in a low-slung reading chair, politely having chosen a spot next to a window and facing the entryway to avoid any possibility of us missing each other. The bar is unassuming, the kind of place Dubliners know about and tourists miss entirely.
It feels appropriate to offer congratulations, since just two days prior, Rooney became the youngest recipient ever of the Costa Novel Award (formerly the Whitbread) for Best Novel for her second book, Normal People. The coming-of-age story had already received recognition, such as Waterstones’ Book of the Year, and had been nominated for the Man Booker Prize (which went to Anna Burns’ Milkman). What’s more, Rooney has been dubbed “Salinger for the Snapchat generation” and the “voice of the millennials”, which is a lot of labels. The hype over Normal People has hit such a fever pitch in the literary community that an American friend recently admitted to having been so desperate to read it, she turned to “the black market” to acquire the book.
Rooney nods, says thank you and mildly acknowledges that the praise is nice to hear, but that she’s also a bit wary of all the attention. “How