Novelist Lionel Shriver read from her latest novel, So Much for All That, last night at the downtown library as part of their Aloud Series. Even though this was the same lecture series which brought me that horrific Polish Theatre lecture, I was excited about the Lionel Shriver reading. She is one of my favorite living novelists. Her books are filled with so much stuff (that’s a technical writer term) that I sometimes sit back and mouth wow (another technical writer term).
As the date for the reading drew near, I started to get a little worried. What if she was the evil queen in Snow White, a super serious intelligent woman incapable of joking and mean to sweeter, younger, and less developed intellects? What if she was Cinderella who fluttered around as she spoke even though she achieved great clarity on the page? What if she was a London-based Alice looking around LA with wide-eyed amusement? What if she was Ariel in the Little Mermaid? Oh, can’t stand Ariel.
Fortunately, Lionel Shriver is not like any Disney character although her red cowboy boots did remind me of Wonder Woman---if Wonder Woman was 5’2” and blonde. However, Wonder Woman is awesome to me, and so is Lionel Shriver. The playwright in me also wants her voice. She has a deep speaking voice. It’s not quite Southern US, not quite London. On stage, she’s not afraid of being still and silent, and it’s rare that someone is comfortable in the silence. It takes a kind of courage. I don’t know. And this paragraph has just floated into nothing. Moving on.
After she read an excerpt from her book, Lionel Shriver did a q&a with a young blonde female writer who was obviously enamored. The young writer kept bobbing her head up and down like a hen in a chicken coup. She wasn’t awful. She was smart and prepared, but next to the Beckett stillness, she seemed a little silly.
When the q&a opened up to the audience, a woman, sitting with her tribe behind me, asked a question, but she didn’t just ask a question. She asked, then she made a statement, then asked the question another way, then clarified, then asked a third time. That warranted an eye roll from me. There’s nothing worse than intellectual groupieism. Who was this woman who was like a rock star to the smart woman set? How did she come to inspire such uuuing? How can I get in on the uuuing action in a profitable way?
After the q&a, it was book signing time. I am currently reading Lionel Shriver’s Belfast novel, The Bleeding Heart aka Ordinary Decent Criminals. I had gotten my copy out of the library because I’m trying to buy fewer books in this time of fiscal belt-tightening. I stood near the signing line for awhile and debated getting my library book signed, but then I realized, she god damn wrote it, of course she should sign it.
Could you sign my library book? I asked Lionel Shriver.
Oh that title. I hate that title. It’s not right. They gave it that title when they published it over here. It should be Ordinary Decent Criminals. She said.
I like Ordinary Decent Criminals better. It fits better. The Bleeding Heart sounds like a god damn romance. I said trying to not sound spineless but sincerely agreeing as she signed her name over her name.
You know it’s your book. You should just change it. I said, and she crossed The Bleeding Heart and she wrote in, Ordinary Decent Criminals. I am such an enabler.