Monday, October 23, 2006

Reading about Kevin

The book had been sitting by my bedside for a while but I was loath to start it — the subject matter was frankly repugnant. Convinced that novel about a high-school murderer could only be trite, I let it gather dust.

On Friday evening I read the first few pages and realised that I had it all wrong — I had confused the theme with the novel itself. The writing was tight, the style beguiling, and the first chapters were more about the “We” in the title than Kevin. It was also about motherhood, childhood, couples, being American, elsewheres, the weight of the Armenian genocide, agoraphobia, and funnily enough it was even about the triteness that I had anticipated. I read on and on.

By Sunday afternoon, I was three quarters of the way through. Enjoyment gave way to creeping foreboding. It ended the only way it could.

The subject matter viciously killed the words.


deborah said...

and here is a link to an interview with Lionel Shriver by Andrew Lawless, (I typed in HER name). At some point she talks about the different take you might have on a book depending on whether you think the writer is a man or a woman.

She has lots of interesting things to say so I am glad you put me on to her.

... but frankly I detest religion, and consider the persistence of these glorified fairy stories as a sign that our species has not crawled very far from caves. The fact that the US is still actively debating evolution horrifies me ...

(will repeat that to my father, it will give him great satisfaction)

and this to finish with:
... And fact informs my fiction—whose does it not? I’m a newspaper junkie, and keeping a hand in op-ed writing gives me an excuse for spending two hours every morning reading the New York Times. Besides, I am a fount of fierce, obnoxious opinions, which need a repository."

Lesley said...

Deborah: There's an interesting audio interview on Radio 4's Book Club (available via Listen Again).

You could get your father the new Richard Dawkins book, but it would be preaching to the converted.

deborah said...

I listened to audio interviews last night, two or three in fact and now I can't find one of them.

I heard on 'Outlook' Helen Caldicott, another case of preaching to the converted (hope she wins the nobel prize soon, it MIGHT wake people up a bit)!

Before that I heard a woman talking about doing some journalism, I think her name was Rose something, an author, it seems she was a hundred years old, but as I had had a glass or two ....Who can this be, Lesley, help. Maybe I should stop listening to the bbc world service during the night.

Then a man mentioned 'The long walk' by Slavomir Rawicz, a book I love, but can't find trace of that programme either.

You talked about a book, me too, so come on you others out there, if you don't want to talk about Kevin, give us the title of a book you have found worthwhile.

heather said...

I'm glad that I read Kevin - for me the flaws were that I didn't believe in the relationship between the parents and I couldn't understand how the father failed to recognise any of K's behaviour, but that aside, I was fascinated by the family dynamic and the relationship between the mother and Kevin. And the author really worked on how society is so unforgiving of mothers. I wondered if there could have been some way that the novel could have explored the issues raised without having the slaughter, but a fundamental part of it was about how mothers are put on trial and judged every day - usually by other mothers, and it was necessary for Kevin to have done something enormous that his mother could be blamed for. Sorry, rambling.

Lesley said...

Deborah: Perhaps you dreamt the Rose Somebody interview? I don't think I have read "The Long Walk". Must go and find it.

Heather: One of the things I enjoyed about "Kevin" was that I could like the mother without necessarily believing everything she remembered. Perhaps a view from outside the family would have added another dimension.
Definitely agree about society believing that it's always the mother's fault. Just today, my students read a text in which they learned that anorexia nervosa is partly caused by "dominant over-bearing mothers". It's a lose-lose position.

deborah said...

I thought that the 'dominant over-bearing mothers' thing had been shelved long ago.
The thoughtful poet, Philip Larkin, brings in the Dad as well at the beginning of one of his poems.

And I see what you mean, Heather, about exploring the issues without having to have the slaughter ... because so tragic for the victims' families and so harrowing to read.

Ms Mac said...

Does it make me a sociopath to think that if I were Kevin, I probably would have wanted to kill his victims as well?

If I have one critcism to make it's that Kevin's victims were not believable. If you ask me, they came straight out of an eighties John Hughes teen movie.

Lesley said...

Well maybe just a little bit Ms Mac, ..... but in a good way.
I thought the sister definitely sounded like a bit too goody-goody to be true, and come to think of it the father was a bit of a wishy-washy character too.