cover image Abominations: Selected Essays from a Career of Courting Self-Destruction

Abominations: Selected Essays from a Career of Courting Self-Destruction

Lionel Shriver. Harper, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-309429-1

Novelist Shriver (Should We Stay or Should We Go) collects more than two decades’ worth of her nonfiction writing in this hit-or-miss compendium. Topics range from the personal, such as the death of the author’s brother, to the pedantic—as with a look at Shriver’s “battle” against comma splices. Shriver also navigates a slew of professional controversies: in her opening address at the 2016 Brisbane Writers Festival, she said she hoped “the concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ is a passing fad (albeit one not passing fast enough),” and goes on, in “a slight expansion” of a New York Times op-ed (rather than the “the crimped, eviscerated” version that the paper published), to respond to a writer who was upset by the address: “This is a performance of injury, an opportunistic and even triumphant display of injury.” While her prose is reliably strong, some of the stances she takes in service of being a self-proclaimed iconoclast can be a slog to get through, especially when they near condescension. (Of a diversity questionnaire sent to Penguin Random House authors, she writes “You can self-classify as disabled, and three sequential questions obviously hope to elicit that you’ve been as badly educated as humanly possible.”) Shriver’s fans, though, will make room on their shelves for it. (Sept.)