Tag Archives: Lionel Shriver



It’s official. I have now decided – once and for all – I am not going to try reading any more of Howard Jacobson’s novels. He and I just don’t get along. I always have the feeling he’s waving a flag saying look at me! I’m so clever – look at this literary trick!

When he won the Booker Prize for The Finkler Question I eagerly dived in, and emerged defeated, three quarters of the way through. I became weary with the middle-aged male maunderings about identity. I abandoned the book, deciding I wasn’t  a clever,Literary, Londoner and that his book wasn’t aimed at me.

And now it’s happened again, this time with Zoo Time. The blurb was encouraging –  the word ‘funny’ was writ large.  I must admit he is, well, not funny,  but witty, when he discourses on the dearth of readers, the demise of the novel, the despair of publishers. But these literary disasters are a sub-theme.

His protagonist is – you’ve guessed it – a middle-aged male novelist, obsessed with erotic ideas and plans centred on his mother-in-law, for goodness’ sake. This, despite the fact, that the narrator is married  (for over 20 years, mark you!) to her flaming haired mercurial daughter, Vanessa. Yet again, I wearied at the interminable mental writhing over his fervid fantasies.

Menopausal mens’ sexual hang-ups don’t do it for me. So: an abandoned book from the TBR pile. Oh well: I tried.


GAME CONTROL Lionel Shriver

Another abandoned book from my TBR Pile : I see a pattern emerging here.  Maybe those books are lurking, unread, in the back of my cupboard for a reason?

The book was too dire. I read one-third of it. Novel is set in Nairobi, Africa, and the themes are Family Planning, AIDS and demographic issues. It outlines Africa’s awful socio-economic problems very neatly – I just could not face reading about these issues again ,  it was too close to home. I face them daily in my local media.  Lionel Shriver is never an easy read, and this one was a lulu, in terms of being a hard read. The male central character – I wanted to kick him; the female central character I wanted to shake violently and tell her to get a backbone, shed her Liberal guilt.  Aaarggh!!

This said, I am admirer of Lionel Shriver. Her We Need to Talk About Kevin  is one of the most powerful, shocking books I have ever read.


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I thought I’d haul the first ten books off the top of the pile that is lurking behind my shirts in my bedroom cupboard – it’s my guilty trove of books that I’ve bought on sales, succumbed to on-line temptations – what can I say? Other people are hooked on booze and nicotine, I’m hooked on books.

  • Amrita – Banana Yoshimoto : I just couldn’t resist her name and it was a sale book, plus I’m in a Japanese novel phase
  • Double Negative – Ivan Vladislavic: Despite his name, a South African novelist with Yugoslav origins; he’s so good he makes me breathless; both his talent and his lovely blue eyes ….
  • Pulphead John Jeremiah Sullivan : much lauded American essayist; I wanted to find out what the fuss was about
  • How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive Christopher Boucher: there’s crazy, & then there’s this writer. I read the first 50 pages, and thoroughly bemused, put it back on the pile; I need to dive into his special brand of lunacy again, and swim bravely for the shore
  • Saraswati Park Anjali Joseph; an Indian novel, a debut; I love Indian novels, for the colour, the characters, the foreignness
  • Game Control – Lionel Shriver: can’t wait to see what this powerful novelist does with modern Africa
  • In the Company of Cheerful Ladies – Alexander McCall Smith: I always enjoy his books on Africa; he’s an instant tonic
  • The Savage Detectives Roberto  Bolano: I keep reading rave reviews about this Mexican writer and want to give him a try
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Amy Chua: the famous/infamous Chinese/American mum with the Boot Camp approach to child rearing. Again – I’m curious
  • Alan Sugar What you see is what you get: Rough diamond industrialist, British peer, cracker of whips on the British version of The Apprentice: I was mightily diverted by him on TV and interested to learn what makes him tick

Now if only I had more time to read, I could get stuck into some of these prospective treats.  Watch this space.


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