Written between the controversial role the press played in the death of Princess Diana and the "all-in" escalation of terrorism with the attack on the World Trade Centre in NYC, <i>The New Republic</i> throws a whimsical left hook at the international press corps at a time before "terror" had become so terrifying that almost no one could laugh at it. Shriver adroitly sets a stage on which the "news" business has not only lost its moral compass and common sense, its very existence depends on duplicity and deception. She creates actors who bumble along on their exercise wheels getting nowhere yet have enough sympathy the reader hopes, the reader dreams that somehow the unlikely could become possible, somehow... It's satire. It's irony. She does it justice; she does it beautifully. Perhaps she inflicts on her readers too much of the politics that formed the grist for her journalists and terrorists. Ah, but these are readers who in the 21 century have been gut-shot and tortured with politics. Perhaps her cleverness was at times too smart for this reader-- or this reader was too dull for her wit. Perhaps the world is so polarized and so serious about evil and good, wrong and right that we are permanently set to defcon 1, afraid to laugh at anything lest the thought police usher us out of the boarding line and into some holding pen. Nevertheless, I did laugh. I did feel the knife twist. I did like the book very much.
As "The New Republic" opens, Edgar Kellogg, a former prep-schooled fat kid, embarks on a financially suicidal reinvention: well-paid, bored Wall Street lawyer to freelance foreign correspondent for a second-rate rag. His first assignment sends him to the fictional Portuguese peninsula of Barba, where he attempts to fill the shoes of Barrington Saddler, a legendary British journalist who has suddenly gone missing. Barba's homegrown terrorist group provides the peninsula's claim to fame and soon Saddler's ghost thrusts Kellogg absurdly into the heart of international terrorism.
Lionel Shriver creates a clever plot, which twists and turns agilely, though languidly, around vivid scenes and wry observations about love, hero-worship and journalistic delusions. A bold and gutsy undertaking, Shriver's satire succeeds in provoking thought though ultimately falls short in entertainment value because of arch characterizations and excess ramblings.
I've just finished the novel, and really enjoyed the author's style and wry humour throughout. The book reads like the author herself shares the insecurity and self-deprecation of the main character, Edgar. Very tongue in cheek, yet can be read as serious, if one isn't looking for the wackyness and wordplay.
Shriver's sentences are long and very carefully crafted, I had to read them twice sometimes!
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