Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name.....

I'm trying to read all of the books on this year's discussion list well in advance and picked up one of Andrea's choices So Much for That by Lionel Shriver. I started listening to it in my car and I found it ferociously mean spirited. All I could think was "wow, this guy is so angry!" I kept listening, in thrall. It's kind of like when you drive by a car accident on the road and don't want to look but can't help yourself.

Imagine my embarrassment when I decided to look up this angry writer, Lionel Shriver, to see what his problem was and found that he is a she, and a prolific one at that! That will teach me to make judgments. Knowing that Ms. Shriver is an ex-pat living in London makes the novel and its point of view even more interesting to me. I didn't think I'd be able to spend any more time with these characters but now I know I'll hang in til the end.

Maybe what's bothering me about this book is how much it makes me think of myself and my friends, blithely planning for our futures, the trips we want to take, the "to do" lists for our retirement years. What's that old saying about "we plan, God laughs?" Shep and Glynis Knacker have spent every one of their vacations scouting for the perfect place to live when their time comes to relax and jump off the ends of the earth. They do everything right - work hard, invest wisely, live sensibly - and bang. Not just the Big C, but a highly untreatable form of cancer with a minimal chance of a good recovery. Suddenly all those pie in the sky plans fold up like a house of cards. It's terribly depressing.

Shriver's characters seem to just be mouthpieces for her politics. When Shep and Glynis get together with their best (and only) friends Carole and Jackson, who are raising a severely handicapped daughter, they rage against the American health care system, politicians, and the liberal elite, hysterically portrayed by Shep's wayward sister Beryl who spouts left wing rhetoric, eschews a career making money for one producing self-centered art films, and then begs for cash from her more responsible brother every time she needs a bailout. Ouch.

There are many online interviews with Ms. Shriver available but I'll just link to one. I find it interesting that she's gone on record as being dead set against President Obama's health care bill yet she despises our current situation in the United States, a belief that comes through loud and clear in this latest novel, but lives in England herself where she has free access to "socialized medicine." Hmmmmm

I would love to be a fly on the wall during this book discussion. Just maybe I'll be able to sneak away from the reference desk for an hour. In the meantime I have a tantalizing new book from Library Journal to delve into. My favorite days are those when I come in to find an express envelope from New York sitting on my desk!
Today I have an odd day off mid-week and I can hear my neighbor out mowing his lawn so I'd better get on it as well before it gets too hot.

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