Monday, April 23, 2007

Lionel Shriver: One Gutsy Writer

Recently I've fallen in love with the work of novelist Lionel Shriver. So has much of the rest of the world. I wish I'd known about her novels long ago.

With her seventh and eighth novels, she has finally gotten big-time attention: bestsellerdom, a huge feature in The New York Times, book tour of New Zealand, etc.

NB: big success came with her 7th and 8th published novels. And she said her former agent refused to handle the seventh one and so she sent it out herself.

A+ for ENORMOUS PERSISTENCE. (Also, for quality in writing, insights, and plots.)

The two books that have finally brought her much-deserved attention are We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post-Birthday World.

Both these books feel so honest that they seem skinless, exposing bare nerve endings.

I went to hear her read a week or so ago at Raleigh's Quail Ridge Books (turns out she spent much of her youth in my town and I interviewed her father a time or two for The Raleigh Times.) I asked her if she'd always been so bold as a writer or had she developed that courage over time.

She seemed genuinely baffled: "That's what writing is for," she said, "to SAY THE UNSAID." She wondered aloud: What are other writers doing? (boldface and caps are all mine)

And another thing: as the Times pointed out, she isn't exactly groveling over success. The head on the story: "After Lean Times, Prizes and Not One Apology." The Times referred to The Guardian (she lives in England) as saying that she had "violated the British law of self-deprecation by boldly declaring that she had WANTED HER BOOK TO WIN" the Orange Prize, which it did indeed win.

Do we ever really believe that someone doesn't want his or her book to win?

From henceforth I hold her work (including the PR wing) before me as a shining example, and will post here in the next couple of days a picture I took at her Quail Ridge reading.


billie said...

Peggy, she sounds wonderfully bold. I especially love that she took that seventh book out on her own steam and made it happen.

I haven't read her work, but on your recommendation, I will.

And I love the quote - saying the unsaid.

Words to write by.

Peggy said...

I'd say start with We Need to Talk About Kevin. When you open it, you'll probably think: do I want to read about this subject? The correct answer is: yes. This book is like no other.

billie said...

Okay! I'll get it this week. Thanks for the recommendation - I am amassing quite the wonderful reading pile after it got dangerously low recently. :)

Heather said...

Thank you so much for mentioning this author. I'd never heard of her before!

Peggy said...

I'll be interested to hear what you think, Heather.

Dewey said...

I've reviewed both of her newest books in my blog. I love her writing but I hate so many of her odd biases, which scream off the page at the reader. I think she's a true eccentric, and I can't decide whether I love her or dislike her.

Peggy said...

Interesting, Dewey. I'm not sure I could identify her biases. Which means I may share them.

I went to your excellent blog but couldn't find the reviews. I enjoyed other posts, though--am adding it to my blogroll.

If there's a way I don't know to find the reviews, I'd love to know.