Lionel Shriver Biography
Journalist and author Lionel Shriver was born Margaret Ann Shriver in 1957 in
North Carolina, USA. She changed her name to Lionel at the age of 15 because she
wanted to distance herself from the "girl with the pink ribbons in her hair, who
married her high-school sweetheart and became an apple-cheeked housewife" that
she felt was implied by the name Margaret Ann and the expectations of her
She received a BA and MFA from Columbia University and, since then, has lived
in Nairobi, Bangkok, Belfast (where she reported on the Troubles for 12 years)
Her first novel, The Female of the Species, was published when she was
29 (1986), and was followed by Checker and the Derailleurs (1987),
Ordinary Decent Criminals (1990), Game Control (1994), A Perfectly
Good Family (1996) and Double Fault (1997).
Although her earlier books received good reviews, sales did not follow, and
she supported herself through journalism. Things changed with the publication of
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2003) in which a teenager murders his
classmates in a school shooting and a mother is forced to confront her son's
monstrous act and her role in them. We Need To Talk About Kevin was
rejected outright by her agent, so Shriver had to shop it around on her own.
Eight months later, having found a new agent and been rejected by at least 30
publishers, the novel was picked up by a small publishing company. It went on to
receive significant public recognition and won the 2005 Orange Prize. Publishers
Weekly said, "A number of fictional attempts have been made to portray what
might lead a teenager to kill a number of schoolmates or teachers, Columbine
style, but Shriver's is the most triumphantly accomplished by far."
The Post-Birthday World was published in 2007 to considerable acclaim.
According to an interview at BN.com, like Irena in The Post-Birthday World,
Shriver is a good cook with a penchant for hot food, "if inclined to lace every
dish from cucumber canapés to ice cream with such a malice of fresh chilies that
nobody but I can eat it." She is also a stickler for grammar and pronunciation
and claims that she is the "lone champion of the accusative case". She runs
regularly, following a nine-mile course around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
in London where she and her husband, jazz drummer Jeff Williams, currently live.
They do not have children. In a 2005 interview she wrote I decided very young
that I didn't want children .... I was about eight ... And I never changed
my mind. But as I grew older, I thought, before I make this decision for keeps,
let's look at it. I needed change - I needed a successful book. But I
didn't want to substitute a child for a successful book, and I worried that's
what I would end up doing. I wasn't dissatisfied enough with my life to throw a
spanner into the works for its own sake."
She has written for the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, the Philadelphia
Enquirer, and since 2005, has written a column for The Guardian newspaper.
Apparently, on her death, she plans to will her assets to the Belfast Library
Board, from whose libraries she checked out so many books when she lived in
This biography was last updated on 03/25/2007.
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