Friday, 13 April 2007

We Need To Talk About Your Thesaurus

Here are some of the thoughts that cross my mind when I read Lionel Shriver’s fictional novel We Need To Talk About Kevin.



What does that word even mean?

This book has had me baffled and I’ve only completed one chapter. I thought the objective of the first chapter was to reel in the reader and leave them with the desire to read on. Shouldn’t each chapter in fact fill you with that compulsion? It however seems that Shriver had a different objective in mind, ‘let me confuse any reader who hasn’t eaten an entire dictionary’.

Her frustratingly complex diction caused me to read the first chapter twice, and I am now uncertain as to whether I even wish to complete the book. Maybe chapter two has much more to offer and will leave feeling like less of a ‘dumb-head’.

Another aspect of this book that irks me is that the chapters are supposedly letters to a man who appears to be her ex-husband. I feel your pain Frankie boy . . .

Dear Franklin,

I feel dreadfully sorry for you and now understand why you left your wife. If the burden of a family trauma wasn’t enough, you also had the unwanted role of listening to a woman who speaks as though she studies the thesaurus in her spare time. Some words were not made for conversations, letters or even an academic thesis. Yet they spew from her mouth like dung from a cow’s backside. Visualise this for a second please.

Franklin, I sincerely apologise for any words I have used which may have caused you to recollect bitter memories of your beloved Eva (not Longoria unfortunately).

Yours empathetically,


I’ll give Lionel Shriver (isn’t Lionel a boys name?) some credit for at least keeping the element of mystery floating in the air. The unknown parts of this book, its theme and Orange Prize for fiction in 2005 causes me to consider that maybe, just maybe this novel has more to offer than a bunch of obscure words.

Shriver shows off her flair effortlessly on occasions. Her style switches, although sometimes bothersome, can be admired in the first chapter. She flows with poise connecting technically sound paragraphs with colloquially loose phrases reminding the reader that she is not actually a robot programmed to churn out five-hundred page novels.

My plan is to get through the second chapter with the hope of being astoundingly gratified. I hope that one day the completion of this book will benefit my life. Maybe I’ll mention it in a job interview and be instantly hired. Maybe I’ll be on date with a nice lady, let’s say . . . Jessica Alba . . . I’ll mention the book and she’ll respond in a smitten like manner “I want to have your babies”. I could even use my newly acquired knowledge to run for Mayor (of London); my campaign strategy will pretty much orbit around this book. Who wouldn’t vote for me? Come on people, Ken (Livingstone) hasn’t read a damn thing in the last decade apart from Oyster Card pamphlets and Olympic Games proposals.

Only good can come from this.

A to the . . .


david mcmahon said...

G'day Ak-Man,

I haven;t read the book, but your review has got me intrigued.

Let me know when you're going to reveiew my novel `Vegemite Vindaloo' - hopefully the first chapter will engage you!

Cheers and don't forget to check Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards.

Keep smiling


Ak-Man said...

Hey Dave.

I'm gonna check out some of the reviews on your book and see whats up with it. I know a few good sites where I can get a good price so i'll be on the look out!

Xymyl said...

Doing the deed of the cursory read, I (Oh, what's another word for am/is?) be glisteningly lubricious with my buttered side down, whilst rubberneckingly and whiplashtastically, teasing out a midbrain crashfest.

The mind scrapings are enjoyable in a slapdash pineapple juice kindergarten dislocation realm of the surreal sort of Kafka-doodle-postage-due sunny side of a dead mans chest sort of way.

As a diced potato and cilantro inchoate recipe for disaster master plan of attack it basks in a certain transfusional visionary interweaving of contrapositions that perorates, filibusters and wheezes until all comprehension stutters, sputters and dies trying to make anything of it.

I enjoyed not finishing the book.

Sebastien said...

You know, I believe that simplicity is beauty. Sure sometimes complex crazy words can be great, but frankly, if it's just to try and show how smart and great you are, well, it makes you look silly. Go with what makes sense, not the big showy words. That said, haven't read this book, I'll try and check out one of these days to see what I think.

Shrink wrapped scream said...

I'm of the opinion, if it makes your brain bleed, acclaims notwithstanding, it's failed. Writing fiction is meant to reach out and touch you, make you think, "Gee, I never thought about it that way before." one emotion you don't expect to feel, is utter confusion as to just what the hell your supposed to be reading. Just my thought..

Now this post here - that's writing! I love your style, witty, sharp and relavent.. thoroughly enjoyed the read - thanks!