Lionel Shriver taunts 'Cultural Police' and more in her new book

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Veteran novelists typically have certain predictable assets: a knack for characterization, clever plots, and a distinctive style. But Lionel Shriver is strangely unpredictable, which is why it keeps her interested: she seems to actively resist her complacent expectations.

Her fiction transitioned from the provocative “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (2003) to the more intimate “Big Brother” (2013), which depicted a mother in a school shooting, and was morbidly obese. It depicts a woman taking care of her brother. She is a very high-concept near-future dystopia “The Mandibles” (2016). Her 2020 novel The Motion of a Body Through Space is a satire about the fitness industry.

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Schreiber’s first non-fiction book, Abominations, is more predictable. Throughout this collection of commissioned essays, speeches and articles, she assumes a single tone: provocateur. Whether she’s talking about Brexit (which she supported), cultural appropriation (“artificial taboos”) or taxes (“the criminalization of money making”), Shriver always does the opposite. It’s upholstered. And for the most part, she doesn’t seem to care about the consequences of ruffled her feathers. Life manifestations of visions that haunt me. I take pride in conveying my “dangerous” opinions in a lighthearted manner.

In her fiction, Schreiber’s polemicist side tends to get depressed rather easily. Her 2010 novel So Much for That was a podium about American healthcare that used the strength of her character. But left to facts alone, Schreiber often gets pissed off, misses targets, and stabs Strowman hard. Infamously, in a 2016 speech in Brisbane, Australia, she lamented cultural appropriation and trolled the crowd wearing a sombrero. “There’s an ideology in vogue these days that’s downright challenging our right to write fiction,” she warned.

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Throughout “Abominations” she complains about the “cultural police” trying to sideline writers who write beyond their own experience. “I feel much more insecure about portraying characters of different races now. Accents make me nervous,” she wrote. As if not. As if it wasn’t the writer’s job to navigate that anxiety and try to make sense of it. Representing the “Cultural Police”, Schreiber’s radar as to who is at risk by it could be flawed in Dani.

Our “depressive and censorship era” has led to a commitment to diversity, she continues. This only means that the publisher “doesn’t view the company’s raison d’etre as the availability and dissemination of good books.” Writing about transgender people sends her down a slippery slope of thinking — “We seem to be entering an era where everything we don’t like about ourselves is subject to correction” — or childish cracks about pronouns and LGBTQ+ culture. , which produces a more functional shorthand.”)

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But her argument lacks depth. Liberals should pay attention to what they say, she warns. The removal of a Confederate memorial in her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina, “will result in unspeakable atmospheric loss,” she laments. Evidence from her essay shows that the unspeakable atmosphere consists primarily of heat.

The compressed, click-tracking nature of the op-ed may explain the flimsy nature of some of her arguments. In her “The Motion of a Body Through Space,” she expresses a strange complaint that exercise isn’t good and trendy (aside from Shriver’s way). The novel focuses on a man in his sixties who finds time to train for triathlons. Because I was kicked out of my job by a Nigerian-born young woman. Armed with her degree in gender studies, she undermined every white male in her sight. This lecture as fiction may have been the worst novel of 2020.

Still, Schreiber followed up on that book with “Should We Stay or Should We Go” (2021), a witty and sensitively speculative tale of couples’ varying reactions to old age. There are some well-made works in . Another piece about her religious upbringing, memories of her late brother, funny riffs on self-improvement during COVID-19 quarantine, and the evolution of misuse of words like “performance.”

But Schreiber can’t afford to pass up an opportunity for futile provocation. In a 2020 speech that appears toward the end of the book, she explores the extended feat of covid-era catastrophe, rational concerns about inflation and monetary policy, and how China manages America’s anti-racism movement. provides a mixture of more interesting statements about how to abuse , and left without an iPhone. “I may be a noisemaker,” she admits. But it’s okay. Modern literary culture has more leeway than Schreiber admits. There is room for cranks. Here is a book that proves it.

Mark AtitakisPhoenix critic andNew Midwest

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