Lionel Shriver

    Lionel Shriver is one of America’s most topical – and fearless – writers. Like Don DeLillo, she exposes the hidden forces and emperor’s clothes myths that shape our society; though where he often works from a 30,000 foot perch, focused on broad, abstract ideas, Shriver gets down and dirty with the beliefs that drive the daily behavior of ordinary people.

    Her 15 novels have illuminated and punctured a broad range of issues including the health care industry (“So Much for That,” 2001), school violence (“We Need To Talk About Kevin”, (2003), body image (“Big Brother,” 2013), and the global economy (“The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047,” 2016).

    Her latest novel, “The Motion of the Body Through Space,” offers a sharp and mordantly funny take on narcissism, conformity and freedom through the lens of two modern forms of religion: political correctness and exercise. The plot revolves around a long married couple living in upstate New York – 60-year-old Serenata, whose knees have failed her after a lifetime of exercise, and her recently retired (not by choice) husband Remington, who has decided to run a marathon after a largely sedentary existence.

    The prickly Serenata, who tells it like it is a little too much (she is not-a-serene), sees this as a personal affront, and a reprimand for her weakness. Remington, in turn, professes little sympathy for his wife’s reaction; instead he retreats into the cult-like world of extreme athletics, as the marathon leads to Ironman competitions that nearly kill him.

    Shriver, who has decried identity politics and challenged the idea of cultural appropriation – she famously wore a sombrero while delivering a speech in 2016 – has Serenata deliver a range of cultural zingers:

    ·         “It’s just, people throwing around fashionable lingo think they’re so hip and imaginative. But you can’t be hip and imaginative. You can be unhip and imaginative, or hip and conformist.”

    ·         “Women nowadays get to choose. We squeal and make the men kill the water bug in the kitchen, and then when anyone questions our courage in the face of threat, we can get on our high horse and act insulted. Pretty good deal when you think about it. We can be world-beaters, and run whole companies, and then claim to be traumatized by a hand on our knee when helplessness is politically useful. Men aren’t really given that option.”

    ·         We already criminalize emotions. ‘Hate crimes.’ You get an additionally long sentence on how you feel. I’m confident that most Americans now believe that being a racist is against the law. Not doing racist things, or saying racist things, but the state of being racist should get you thrown in jail.”

    Ultimately, “The Motion of the Body Through Space,” is a novel about the search for wider meaning in a world that has closed paths to almost anything but narcissism. Beneath the plotlines and witty insights Shriver suggests how modern life has transmogrified the things we long turned to for connection – especially family and friends – into tools for our own personal journeys of self-discovery. We don’t just die alone – we live that way, too. Unless, we rediscover another way; one which Serenata and Remington, despite it all, eventually start slouching toward.

    ·         Read an excerpt from “Motion.”

    ·         Read reviews of the novel here, here and here.

    ·         Read the New Yorker’s profile of her.

    ·         Watch Lionel discuss identity politics.

     

    Lionel Shriver’s Top Ten List

    1. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (1940).
    2. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).
    3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
    4. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene (1948).
    5. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (1961).
    6. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1920).
    7. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1966).
    8. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1868).
    9. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895).
    10. Paris Trout by Pete Dexter (1988).

    New List

    David Mitchell

    1. The Duel by Anton Chekhov (1891).
    2.1984by George Orwell (1948).
    3.Heart of Darknessby Joseph Conrad (1899).
    4.Sense and Sensibilityby Jane Austen (1811).
    5.The Master and Margaritaby Mikhail Bulgakov (1966).
    6.As I Lay Dyingby William Faulkner (1930).
    7.Tom Jonesby Henry Fielding (1749).
    8.Labyrinthsby Jorge Luis Borges (1964).
    9.W, or The Memory of Childhoodby Georges Perec (1975).
    10.The Makioka Sistersby Junichiro Tanizaki (1943–48).
    Wild Card:Lolly Willowesby Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926).



     

    Classic List

    Top Ten African-American Works

    1. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952). 
    2. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987). 
    3. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (1977). 
    4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937). 
    5. Native Son by Richard Wright (1945). 
    6. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959). 
    7. Another Country by James Baldwin (1962). 
    8. Cane by Jean Toomer (1923). 
    9. Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid (1990). 
    10. Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown (1965). 

     





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