Law and Conversation

October 13, 2010

Lionel Shriver is a National Book Award finalist and Jacobson wins the Man Booker

Filed under: Books and writing — Helen Gunnarsson @ 2:28 pm
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Fall is such an eventful season for books and publishing, with several major awards being announced.  The day after Howard Jacobson won the 2010 Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question, the National Book Foundation announced the finalists for the 2010 National Book Award.  Lionel Shriver made the list for her newly published novel, “So Much For That.”  Now we’re waiting on our northern neighbors to announce Canada’s major book award, the ScotiaBank Giller Prize.

I wrote about Lionel Shriver last month and noted that “So Much For That” is a critique of the U.S. health care system.  Serendipitously for her publicity and sales, her book was published on the eve of the passage of the federal law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) that’s supposed to improve it.  In interviews, Shriver questions whether it will do so, asking “Can we continue to lavish this much money on what is really end-of-life care?”  As I also noted in my prior post, I wrote a short article highlighting a couple of points from the new 974-page statute to which businesses and lawyers will need to pay particular attention in the current issue of the Illinois Bar Journal (October 2010).

The Giller shortlist is here.  The winner will be announced November 9.

Have you visited The Animal Rescue Site yet today?  Please do so and vote for Friends Of Strays, a small animal shelter in Princeton, IL, as your favorite shelter.  It only takes a few clicks and typing in the name of an animal from a photo (to verify that you’re a real person and not a voting bot).  Costs nothing, you don’t have to register, and you won’t get a virus.  You can vote once a day, and you certainly don’t have to live in Illinois, or even the US, to vote for Friends of Strays (in Princeton, IL, remember).  I’m asking everyone I know to vote for this tiny and very deserving organization.  For more, see the last 2 paragraphs of my post here.

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September 7, 2010

More on Lionel Shriver–and health care

Filed under: Books and writing,health care,Law,Read This!,reading — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:01 am
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Yesterday I recommended Lionel Shriver’s novel, “The Post-Birthday World,” as part of my Read This! campaign.  But Shriver’s better known for her earlier, Orange Prize-winning novel, “We Need To Talk About Kevin.”

I hadn’t planned to read “Kevin,” despite its award and the generous praise it’s garnered, because of its subject matter, which includes a Columbine-like school massacre.  But when I picked it up to browse at the bookstore one day, the first page pulled me in immediately, through the voice of a mother who never bonded with and frankly dislikes her extraordinarily difficult child.

In her newest novel, “So Much For That,” Shriver criticizes the U.S. health care system.  The book was published on the eve of the passage of the federal law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) that’s supposed to improve it; in interviews, Shriver questions whether it will do so, asking “Can we continue to lavish this much money on what is really end-of-life care?” 

The new law probably doesn’t provide a definitive answer to Shriver’s question.  Quoting Springfield, IL lawyer Charles Y. Davis, I highlight (necessarily incredibly briefly) a couple of points from the 974-page statute to which businesses and lawyers will need to pay particular attention in the forthcoming issue of the Illinois Bar Journal for October 2010.

 Have you ever decided to read a book that initially repelled you?  If so, did you end up liking it, or were you sorry you’d spent your time on it?

September 6, 2010

Read This: Lionel Shriver

Filed under: Books and writing,fiction,Read This!,reading — Helen Gunnarsson @ 12:01 am
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Mondays are Read This! days on which I write about books that I really, really want everyone in the world to read.  Today I’m recommending “The Post-Birthday World,” by Lionel Shriver.

Shriver wrote her novel in ten chapters:  one chapter 1, one chapter 10, and two each of the ones in between.  The unusual structure results from Shriver’s plot device:  She ends chapter 1 with a cliffhanger where the main character, Irina, has to decide whether to kiss her longtime partner’s best friend, Ramsey, whom she’s never before particularly liked.  From there, the story diverges along two lines, depending on whether she does or doesn’t kiss him.  The lines reconvene in chapter 10, which is the same for both. 

Some UK reviewers have criticized Shriver, an American who’s lived in England for years, for lacking authenticity in Ramsey’s Cockney speech.  Other reviewers criticized the book for feeling contrived.  My American ears not only didn’t find anything inauthentic in the dialogue or predictable in the plot but marveled at Shriver’s capturing the most subtle of nuances in human relationships.  And if the structure is contrived, so what?  So’s a sonnet.

Shriver, who won the 2005 Orange Prize for “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” has a great editorial in last week’s issue of The Guardian, “I write a nasty book.  And they want a girly cover on it.”  She nails her own style when she says that “trussing up my novels as sweet, girly and soft is like stuffing a rottweiler in a dress.”  She also gives a great interview.  You can listen to one from May 2010 on the Australian Broadcasting Company’s “The Book Show” and another from the Sydney Writer’s Festival from the same month.

I’ll have more on Lionel Shriver and her work tomorrow.  In the meantime, what books do you think are so good that everyone in the world should read them?

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