Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Friday, 11 November 2011

"We need to talk about Kevin" by Lionel Shriver (Serpent's Tail, 2005)

The language is elevated though the narrator works in "Travel R Us". The letter form belies the content. These are literary artifices that one gets used to I suppose. Perhaps later on in the book this wordiness will be justified.

  • "This is a dynamic particular to encounters with male drivers, who seem to grow all the more indignant the more completely they are in the wrong. I think the emotional reasoning, if you can call it that, is transitive: You make me feel bad; feeling bad makes me go mad; ergo, you make me mad. If I'd had the presence back then to seize on the first part of the proof, I might have glimpsed in Kevin's spontaneous dudgeon a glimmer of hope". (p.47)
  • "But if I had arrogated to myself the whole planet as my personal backyard, this very effrontery marked me as hopelessly American, as did the fanciful notion that I could remake myself into a tropical internationalist hybrid from the horribly specific origins of Racine, Winconsin" (p.52)
  • "Though I expected that my ambivalence would evanesce, this conflected sensation grew only sharper, and therefore more secret" (p.66)
  • "Kevin looked victorious. For years he has tempted me to be nasty. I remained factual. Presenting emotions as facts - which they are - affords a fragile defense" (p.68)
  • "Then, while I do hope this correspondence hasn't degenerated into shrill self-justification, I worry equally that I may seem to be laying the groundwork for claiming that Kevin is all my fault." (p.78)
  • "Besides, I might be more kindly disposed to this ultra-secular notion that whenever bad things happen someone must be held accountable if a curious little halo of blamelessness did not seem to surround those very people who perceive themselves as bordered on every side by agents of wickedness" (p.80)
  • "I might have achieved a renewed appreciation for my own normative propensities, including a not unreasonable expectation ..." (p.101)
  • "If fear of abandonment contributed to a decibel level that rivaled an industrial buzz saw, his loneliness displayed an awesome existential purity" (p.106)

There are half-pages I'd chop, chapters (e.g. "December 21, 2000") I'd shrink. It took me 6 weeks to reach page 100 - I'd given up twice. No doubt it's all explained at the end, but that's still hundreds of pages away. I think I'll stop now.

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