This blog will touch on the experiences I have as a writer (not to be mistaken for my experience as a writer, i.e. how many books I've written, etc); the pleasure and the pain, the joy and the grief, the satisfaction and the frustration, the magic and the reality - have I left anything out, oh yeah, the rejection, rejection and more rejection, the humiliation and the embarrassment, the jealousy and the resentment - that pretty much covers it, except for why I do it which perhaps I'll realize along the way. Are you totally confused? Good, let's begin.
As a journalist, I’ve been one of those who lived in anticipation of covering “a big story”, and when it happened; be it a natural disaster, horrific accident or multiple murder, almost gleefully sought out the gory details since the more casualties, the more dramatic the story, and the more likely my byline would appear on the front page.
Lionel Shriver, a journalist herself, knows this rush and how being in the right place at the right time can make a career, just as poor timing and bad luck (for the journalist) can consign one to mediocrity.
So how far would a journalist go so a “big story event” would land in their lap, where he or she would be on the scene, the go-to person for updates, the reporter other reporters are reporting on?
When anonymous bombings take lives of civilians and no group comes forward to claim them, Shriver’s protagonist, Barrington Sadler, a larger than life character with a name to match, decides to attribute them to a fictitious terrorist group in a backwater part to the world he is assigned to cover. This provides him with the best of all possible situations for a journalist - being on the spot and having inside information (since he created it).
When Sadler disappears, his replacement, Edward Kellogg, figures out the scam but rather than expose it, continues with it for the same reasons Sadler did.
Shriver’s satirical novel asks important questions, specifically is the media complicit with terrorists when they give in-depth coverage of the carnage and background context about their cause?
Shriver’s creation of the setting (fictitious) and political and economic grievances (contrived) all have the ring of authenticity as do her characters; the cynical media hacks, the pious spokesperson for the terrorists, and the academic apologists.
The only thing this novel lacks is a sympathetic character, one the reader could align themselves with and cheer for. Everyone is self-serving and nasty.
Though quite brilliantly conceived and written, once the message has been delivered the story peters out. It’s like the author imbued the characters with the necessary qualities, they did their job conveying various aspects of the story, and then she had no idea what to do with them. The protagonist almost literally rides off into the sunset.