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Monday, February 05, 2007


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I leave you alone for a MINUTE and there is so much to comment on!
I thought it was an interesting book -I read it some time ago now so am a little rusty. I also was annoyed by the mother and thought the character missed making some obvious choices - like getting help or leaving - but I thought the central question - are some people just born evil? - a valid one. I wouldn't call it 'evil' and I wouldn't depict the Kevin character in quite the same way. Rather, I wonder whether some people are just born with an inability to distinguish that other people/animals have feelings - that people outside of oneself might be concerned about having their wings pulled off/being beaten up etc. So I enjoyed the tension of trying to figure out who to believe - was Kevin the monster the mother described? Or was the mother a Bad Mother? (it'd take too long to add a discussion of Bad Mother so I won't)

I saw Shriver at the Brisbane Film Festival. A prickly character. I think there is a lot of Shriver in Kevin as well - she sees herself as a misanthrope, a person who plays by different rules, and has a sense of superiority. Her second book 'Match Point', is not as powerful (maybe unless you like tennis) but reprises this - a story told from the point of view of an essentially unlikeable character.

P.S. Hooray for Lottie the wonderdog!

I didn't realise Shriver wrote the book of Match Point - I've seen the film (which I presume is the film of her book). Interesting - I can see the similarities.
Perhaps in concentrating on my aggravation with the narrator, I've not said that I did enjoy and appreciate the book - well, the first half of it especially, though I thought it went astray in the final section.
Undoubtedly there are people who have no empathy and I thought it was clever of Shriver to create Kevin as a character who had no joy in life. But I do think those sorts of attributes come about as a result of complex interactions in infancy. Which sounds like mother-blaming, but isn't - it's to say that mother-baby interactions are of vital importance (and need to be supported on many personal and institutional levels.)

Erm - I might have the book title wrong (my books are in storage)- I saw the film and enjoyed it but it's not the book - Shriver's book is about a professional tennis player who marries an amateur - the amateur subsequently outranks her and the book follows the narrator's response to this. It was an interesting look at jealousy and competition within intimate relationships - although it would have been stronger if the character had been more likeable (i.e. if I could identify with her more).

I agree that mother-baby interactions are of vital importance - however I don't think they're rocket science - 'good-enough' parenting produces perfectly well functioning individuals. What interests me is why some people respond to the trials and tribulations of a less than perfect childhood with absolute despair/hatred/insanity and others are simply 'normally' neurotic (or writers). (Resilience I believe is the current word for it). e.g. girls who are sexually abused who go on to become sexual abuse counsellors vs those who spend their days carving patterns into their wrists. Boys are more likely to externalise their anger/self-hatred - but what is it about them that makes that the response they choose, rather than a life of impotent alcoholism, say?
I suppose what I'm saying is I don't think it's ALL nurture - but then that's the $50,000 question.

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