A Satiric Take on Terrorism

Lionel Shriver first tried to get publishers interested in her book, The New Republic, in 1998, but her “lousy sales record” was going against her. The subject matter, terrorism, was also a problem. At that point, it wasn’t much on Americans minds. The events of 9/11 changed that, but The New Republic is darkly humorous and Americans were not ready for terrorism humor (Kurt Anderson famously said 9/11 marked “the death of irony.”)

Meanwhile, Shriver’s seventh book, We Need to Talk about Kevin became a best seller in 2003 and a high-profile movie. With the passing of time, as Shriver tells Susan Stamberg on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, “maybe we finally got a bit of a sense of humor. And I think that, generally, humor is a nefariously effective weapon against terrorism, because it is the one thing that terrorists can’t stand, and that’s to be laughed at.”

The book finally releases tomorrow. Both the LA Times and Entertainment Weekly praise the satire, but not so much the plot. As the latter puts it,

The story is baggy and idling, with an ending that thuds.  The dialogue zings, though, and the writing is jazzy…The author can toss off a sharp sketch of a passing character in a phrase, and she’s got a gimlet eye for what’s phony, or affected, or even touchingly vain in human behavior.

By the way, Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence, tells O magazine that We Need to Talk about Kevin is one of the “books that made a difference” in her life. Her range is broad; she also includes The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and J.D. Salinger’s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.

The New Republic
Lionel Shriver
Retail Price: $26.99
Hardcover 400 pages
Publisher: Harper – (2012-03-27)
ISBN 9780062103321

Thorndike Large Type; Dreamscape Audio

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