I’m currently reading Lionel Shriver‘s forthcoming novel, So Much for That, which publishes in March. I’ll have more to say on it when the time comes, but for now it’s enough to say that the novel is intimately concerned with the wallet-draining powers of healthcare in America—which is to say it’s very timely. But that’s just a happy accident, Shriver writes in Standpoint magazine, and she expresses her hopes for the book in the context of recent Congressional healthcare debates with her usual dark humor:
[T]hese last few months, I’ve found myself in the perverse position of praying, in defiance of my own passionate support for legislation of this very sort, that Congressional healthcare reform would get hopelessly bogged down in internecine squabbles — just so long as no bill passed until after my release date. Sounds selfish? Hell, yes! That book was a lot of work!
Shriver’s larger point is a more considered one: It’s unfair to expect novelists to somehow “bring the news” when they need the time to think about and imagine the situation in which they’re living, not to mention go through the various time-consuming machinations required to bring a book to print. (So Much for That is mostly set in 2005.) “[I]if any budding novelists out there are searching for material that’s bound to be all too germane for years and years to come?” asks Shriver. “Here’s a tip: write about Afghanistan.”
Or write about money. Last month, Shriver was shortlisted for the BBC’s National Short Story Award, for her story “Exchange Rates.” The full story isn’t available online, but the excerpt in the video below captures some of the ranting tone that powers So Much for That. Shriver didn’t win or come in second, which means she earned £500 for her efforts. Good enough for a few pens: