Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lionel's latest

By Tracy

Now onto Lionel Shriver's newest novel, So Much For That.

I was offered to choose a book as a gift the other day, and couldn't help myself. This one is for leisure, not for study, so it will have to be a slower read. (Leisure?)

It's essentially a book about the US healthcare system, and if I hadn't had first-hand experience of that, it might have lost me already, because it's rather reliant on long mouthpiece speeches.

And though I've appreciated most of the other Shriver novels I've read, I would class my most recent experience of her work, an early book called Game Control, as one of the worst novels I've ever read.

In this latest, there are the usual wonderful moments of clarity and perception of human foibles; unfortunately these turn all too quickly into harping on human foibles -- there's a bleak hard edge in her writing that's sometimes hard to bear.

There's also a kind of "book-club" topicality that I find irritating (certain subjects are just always going to get an airing with the book-buying public).

That's not a hit at book clubs, just an observation that you can sometimes feel how writers cynically aim at a niche.

However, in this case Shriver is also writing from experience of a friend's terminal illness, and it's not just a "topic" for her.

Why do I keep reading her, when she keeps making me so uncomfortable? I don't want merely to feel comfortable when I read -- and she steers clear of the sentimental. But she can also steer right into the grotesque... as when one of her male characters goes in for a botched "enlargement" operation. (Well, she is dealing with the medical system in this novel...) 


1 comment:

Nathan Hobby said...

You sum up my feelings about Lionel very well. :)