So Much for Shriver

My review of Lionel Shriver’s novel, So Much for That, runs in today’s Chicago Sun-Times. Here’s the first paragraph:

In We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver axed at the angst of self-absorbed parenting while spinning the unspoken psychological grindstone that sharpens school violence. In her severely underrated novel The Post-Birthday World, Shriver expertly established two parallel universes that exposed the delicate fissures buried within a seemingly grounded relationship. One would logically assume Shriver to be the ideal social novelist to fire up the Flammenwerfer for a blistering assault on the ongoing health care crisis.

You can also listen to my 2007 interview with Shriver on The Bat Segundo Show. While I was extremely disappointed by the latest novel, I still believe that Shriver has enough talent to recapture the momentum contained within her last three novels, which are all worth reading.

Sarah Lyall Summarized

LONDON, March 18 — Lionel Shriver has written a new novel, The Post-Birthday World. But you don’t need to know about that, even though the book is one of the best of the year. What really counts is that Ms. Shriver looks younger than her 49 years and is quite a piece of ass. We here at the New York Times wouldn’t say any of this things if Ms. Shriver were male (which we confess, we initially thought she was, Lionel being one of those gender-neutral names), but we’re more content to judge Ms. Shriver for her appearance than for her literary achievements. Never mind that she won the Whitbread Book of the Year.

Slight, wry, precise in bending over and with the air and appearance of someone who might be good in bed, Ms. Shriver makes no excuses for our tendency to ogle and makes none now. “Why are you getting out the measuring tape?” she said recently, as we tried to get her measurements in her apartment in South London. “It’s obviously a ploy, but I don’t think it’s an obligation for a profile. Have you even read my book?”

Well, no, we hadn’t.

What makes our maneuvers so interesting is that Shriver’s publicists thought that this would be a great idea. We tried to get her to pose naked for our photographer and she refused.

“But we’re with the New York Times!” we said.

“Yes, and I’m doing my best to humor you and put up with your inane questions.”

“Surely, they’re not that inane.”

“I paid my dues. I did not write a novel at 21 and it sells a million copies and everybody thinks I’m brilliant and I’m on TV.”

“Can we use that?”

“Only if you go away.”