There's a glib one-liner tossed around journalism circles that goes: There's a novel inside of every journalist, and it should stay there. Thankfully for fans of good fiction, Lionel Shriver didn't follow this advice. Shriver, an American living in London, writes for The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and The Independent in addition to cranking out fiction. She gracefully brings a journalist's touch to her novels, simply explaining concepts readers need to understand to enjoy the book. In her latest, the bestseller The Post Birthday World, for instance, one of the main characters is a world-class snooker player. Aware that Americans know very little, if anything, about the pool game popular in Britain, Shriver devotes early breezy paragraphs to explaining the basics, then uses parts of the rest of the novel to enhance the reader's understanding. Shriver smartly did the same thing in last year's Game Control, about Africa's growing population and shrinking resources. Although widely unknown for her fiction until her 2004 breakthrough novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, in which a mother grapples with her high schooler son's crossbow murder rampage, Shriver is now widely recognized as a writer of sharply drawn, interpersonal tales.
Thu., March 13, 4 p.m., 2008