I will need to elaborate on Lionel Shriver’s brilliance at some time. She’s about the most quotable writer I’ve ever read. After being very impressed by We need to talk about Kevin, Post-birthday world has lines on almost every page that I feel like writing down. She has this acute insight into the details of life, and it’s this which can truly set a writer apart.
Not just the details either – an ability to observe and describe emotional states. To see what we all experience but don’t realise.
A couple of weeks ago she wrote an excellent column about her father for the Guardian where she talks of their mutual penchant for dissatisfaction – ‘great when you’re young; at 80, it’s self-destructive’. How true. How disturbing. (Maybe it’s half my problem. I need to get over the dissatisfaction that drove me through my teens and early twenties. Because IT DOESN’T WORK when you hit late twenties.)
I wonder how her father feels about her writing so candidly about him while he’s still alive. Ten years ago I would have written with this openness. Maybe even five years ago. But I’ve become much more guarded the last few years.
I don’t think she’s candid out of naivety, like I was. I genuinely thought that if I was open and honest to the world, they’d repay me with my kindness. Then I met some formidable people who taught me otherwise.
I’m fascinated by Lionel Shriver’s father because he’s a theology scholar. One of these few places where my polarity of interests – theology and literature – meet, besides in me.