LitFest 2016 Review – Lionel Shriver

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

by Kate Fry

photo credit Ben Phillips Photography

Lionel Shriver opened Marlborough Literature Festival on Friday night with a wide-ranging discussion that included the mysteries of economics, writing about families, her worry that the wine might run out one day, and her desire for individuality.

Interviewed by Alex Clark of The Guardian and The TLS, Shiver’s measured delivery and dry humour kept me enthralled as she discussed the process of writing her new novel, The Mandibles, which follows four generations of an American family as the USA’s economy collapses catastrophically in the year 2029. Shriver stated that many of her ideas for the book came from examining the history of the Great Depression – and she put those events into a near future time to see what might happen. Whilst Shriver suggested that those who live frugally and carefully now may be more prepared should the worst happen, she also said we should be grateful to live in such a relatively civilized time and that we should make the most of it – so she drinks good wine in case it runs out in the future.

When asked about a speech this summer in Australia that got her into some trouble, with effects reverberating round the literary world, Shriver said that she still felt that writing is all about inhabiting other characters and that it should increase our understanding of different lives. She aims to be individual but defends exploring the experience of others in her work.