cover image The Motion of the Body Through Space

The Motion of the Body Through Space

Lionel Shriver. Harper, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-232825-0

Shriver’s bitter satire of the elite exercise industry (after the collection Property) huffs along with sobering reflections on aging. Serenata Terpsichore and Remington Alabaster, married for 32 years, have recently moved to Hudson, N.Y., in the wake of Remington losing his civil engineering job in Albany. The couple’s bumptious domestic bickering comes to a head after sedentary Remington, at 64, announces he will run marathon. Serenata, who’s been a runner for years, scolds him for the unwelcome “incursion into her territory.” Nevertheless, Remington trains, buys neon-colored running gear and a “brushed-steel, state-of-the-art” treadmill with surround sound. At the finish line, he is accompanied by Bambi Buffer, a late 30-something woman in a lavender sports bra whom Serenata derisively refers to as an “anatomy illustration.” Bambi encourages Remington toward a new goal, the Lake Placid MettleMan Triathlon. With Serenata as a mouthpiece, Shriver casts her familiar brand of mordant humor at easy targets, but unlike in the work of Edward St. Aubyn, for instance, the narrator’s meanness serves no apparent purpose, and the razor-sharp observation isn’t balanced by self-implication. The result is underwhelming. (May)