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A striking new collection of ten short stories and two novellas that explores the idea of property in every meaning of the word from the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award finalist So Much for That and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About KevinIntermingling settings in America and Britain Lionel Shriver’s first collection explores property in both senses of the word real estate and stuff These pieces illustrate how our possessions act as proxies for ourselves and how tussles over ownership articulate the power dynamics of our relationships In Lionel Shriver’s world we may possess people and objects and places but in turn they possess usIn the stunning novella The Standing Chandelier a woman with a history of attracting other women’s antagonism creates a deeply personal wedding present for her best friend and his fiancée—only to discover that the jealous fiancée wants to cut her out of their lives In Domestic Terrorism a thirty something son refuses to leave home resulting in a standoff that renders him a millennial cause célèbre In The ChapStick a middle aged man subjugated by service to his elderly father discovers that the last place you should finally assert yourself is airport security In Vermin an artistic Brooklyn couple’s purchase of a ramshackle house destroys their once passionate relationship In The Subletter two women both foreign conflict junkies fight over a claim to a territory that doesn’t belong to eitherExhibiting a satisfying thematic unity unusual for a collection this masterful work showcases the biting insight that has made Shriver one of the most acclaimed writers of our time


10 thoughts on “Property

  1. says:

    My godI love Lionel Shriver I should have my head examined for taking so long to return to the ‘ueen of spectator’ NOW THIS IS GOOD READING Lionel is so damn brilliant intelligent beyond intelligentShe gets your blood pumpingHer prose is irresistible perceptive unnerving dark and totally entertainingnot ha ha entertaining but I did laugh plenty RICHLY SATISFYING entertaining I looked up several exciting unfamiliar vocabulary words and people I had never heard ofand giggled at the joy of doing so Here’s a word for ya “vituperation” a nounmeans bitter or abusive language And here’s an interesting man I never knew until Shriver introduced him to me“Joseph Cornell” He was an American artist and filmmaker one of the pioneers and most celebrated exponents of assemblagethree dimensional elementssimilar to collage Cornell’s most characteristic artworks were boxed assemblages Shadow boxes usually fronted with glass pane He could create poetry from the common place forgive me for going off on a tangent but I was intrigued Before the first novella “ A Standing Chandelier” two novellas and 10 short stories in all the Epigraph asks us a uestion “What is the effect of property upon the character”“If you own things what’s their effect on you? What’s the effect on me of my wood?“In the first place it makes me heavy“In the Second place it makes me feel it ought to be larger” EM Forester “My Wood” PROPERTY OF CHARACTER it’s THEME is explored in every story In “The Standing Chandelier” Jillian Frisk and Weston Babansky Baba have been best friends for twenty years Enter Paige Paige and Weston become a romantic couple “Having known the woman’s boyfriend for 20 some years conferred an unfair advantage Paige doubtless new too that Jillian and Baba had slept together and that was awkward” Jillian states the obvious”when people don’t like you they don’t like you” “Jillian found the experience of being disliked bewildering She would involuntarilyverify the very ualities that the faultfinder couldn’t bear Vanity? Flakiness? Staginess? “For intrinsic facet of being disliked was racking your brain for whatever it was that rubbed other people so radically the wrong way They rarely told you to your face so you were left with a burgeoning list of obnoxious characteristics that you could compile for them” “So Jillian would demote her garb from festive to garish or even vulgar and suddenly see how her offbeat thrift shop ensembles replete with velvet vests broad belts tiered skirts and enough scarves to kill Isadora Duncan three times over could seem to demonstrate attention seeking behavior A clear forceful voice to the leery merely loud and whenever she suppressed the volume the better to give no offense she simply became inaudible which was maddening too Besides she didn’t seem capable of maintaining a mousy head down demeanor for than half an hour during which the sensation was tantamount to a Chinese foot binding of this soul” Paige doesn’t want Julian to be in Weston’s life ‘whatsoever’ if Paige agrees to marry him The dialogue is at times like observing a tennis match ha they do play tennis in this story Who the hell is going to win the match? There is a lot that Paige doesn’t like about Jillian that I did love “Jillian pursued purposelessness as a purpose in itself It had taken her some years to understand that she’d had such trouble setting on a career because she didn’t want one She was surrounded by go getters and they could have their goals their trajectories their aspirations—their feverish toiling toward some distant destination that was bound to disappoint in the unlikely instance they ever got there” “Jillian wasn’t so much out to convert anyone else simply to stop apologizing”Paige said that she wasn’t trying to convince Weston to despise Jillian but the problem was getting worse Paige says “I couldn’t stand her when I met her and I can’t stand her now that I’ve gotten to know her better She acts as if her not doing anything professionally makes her so special when most people don’t do anything She absolutely has to be the central focus in any given group of people and whenever conversation strays from ‘her’ latest goofball project or ‘her’ latest goofball outfit she stops paying attention” As to who does win the tennis match literally and figurativelyMarriage or no marriage friendship or not will have your head spinning with thoughts As to the ‘Chandelier’ itself it’s permanence it’s presence in this storyYOU JUST MUST READ THIS STORYI didn’t set out with a plan to write so much about this first Novella so I will shorten the rest of the review and say that I haven’t felt this jazz about a collection of stories this much since reading “The Wonder Garden” by Lauren Acompora All of these stories are vibrant exploring the ways in which we connect with each other Sometimes life is cruel People can be mean and ruthless possessive of their belongings as well as possessive of their emotions Using that new word I liked so muchhere is how Shriver used it “These days people indiscriminately sprayed vituperation every which way as if launching a mass acid attack in a crowded public suare Sheer meanness had become a customary form of entertainment” I’ll end with saying this is by far the best collection of short stories I’ve read this year and I highly recommend it And if you’ve never read Lionel Shriver do yourself a favor and read anything by her


  2. says:

    Be careful what you wish for I'm not a great fan of the short story format – so often they fail to live up to my expectations and peter out without a satisfactory conclusion But Lionel Shriver’s stories are in a different class These cautionary tales of the pitfalls of property owning fulfil their promise and deliver the goods in Shriver’s caustic satirical style ExcerptFor all its postclass pretensions modern Britain was just as feudally cleaved into serfs and landowning gentry as it had been in the Middle Ages and entering his own middle age Elliot was still a serf Gleaming brass escutcheons seemed to be locking Elliot Ivy personally out while gloating facades on either side of the road rose implacably against this poor asshole Americanwho hadn't the brains to have swung onto the much vaunted “housing ladder” when he'd had the chance Now the end of that ladder was dangling a hundred feet in the air and all the slaphappy homeowners carousing on the bottom rung were pointing down at him and cackling


  3. says:

    Having heard great things about Lionel Shrivers writing and already owning several of her titles though as yet unread I couldn't resist reuesting this review copy       Described as a book of short stories I figured it would be a great opportunity to sample her style   It was     After one story I already felt convinced she was going to find her way onto my list of favourite authors   Sometimes short stories can be a hit and miss affair for me but in this case the hits were definitely in the majority   There was plenty of variety in the tone and type of stories ranging from comical sentimental cynical and thought provoking      Too many to describe in detail but I'll provide some thoughts on three of my favourites    The first story 'A Standing Chandelier  A Novella' was a fascinating and moving look at human nature      An enduring friendship between a man and a woman 25 years in the making   A friendship seemingly treasured by both parties but one which was never the less sacrificed in the name of love    As an outsider looking in I could understand if not necessarily respect each of the characters stand points and to some degree the responses to the situation they found themselves in   For such a short story I was heavily invested in the plight of these friends    Another which captured my attention was Domestic Terrorism    This showcased Shrivers wittiness and cynicism    A couple in their 50's with a 32 year old son who had never had a job or moved out of home nor did he have any intention of doing so       There was no flying the coop for this son even being pushed out of the nest backfired on mum and dad who eventually capitulated          Finally The ChapStick contained some great obvservations on family relationships on aging and some cynical commentary  about the airport anti terror check in process and the people who enforce the rules      One of my favourite paragraphs one which resonated with some personal experiences with the elderly was found in  this story  Before he'd any first hand experience of the parental fade to black Peter would have imagined a softening a rounding of the edges on the part of both parent and erstwhile child as if both parties were scoops of icecream placed for a benedictory moment in the sun and all the rumples ridges and rills smoothed to leave uniform balls of benevolence   To the contrary the aged seemed to seize even stiffly into who and what they had always been their rumples got bumpier their ridges peaked the rills ran deeper so that if you could  compare them to icecream it was to the sort so hard that you couldn't ram a spoon into the carton     Many thanks to Lionel Shriver HarperCollins publishers and Edelweiss for the review copy in exchange for an honest review which it was my pleasure to provide


  4. says:

    Two novellas and ten short stories from Shriver all of which in some way are concerned with property or possessions often transferred to or from people or contested between them As ever Shriver's tone is cool sardonic watchful and merciless in its exposureThe darkly humorous novella 'The Standing Chandelier' subverts the idea of the love triangle while also giving us an artifact in the 'chandelier' itself which is hilarious grotesue and yet uniuely personal 'Repossession' similarly reconstructs the haunted house storyThere are times where our contemporary world breaks through the role of airport security in 'The Chapstick' for example; and we see the economical accounting of a father and son's relationship in 'Exchange Rates'Set mostly in either London or the US these stories cleverly explore the dynamics of power through things


  5. says:

    I love LionelTwo novellas sandwiching a collection of short stories The Standing Chandelier has already been published as a stand alone novella reviewed on the product page But for me it’s Shriver’s first short story The Self Seeding Syca that wins the day and alone is worth the price of admission As a rule I’m not a lover of the short story format but these thirteen pages about a recently widowed fifty something who has no choice but to take over her late husband’s onerous gardening duties gave me undiluted pleasure than anything I’ve read in a long time As the recent new owner of an unkempt wilderness my empathy level was at an all time highIf I had to find a uibble it would only be that in her Brit set stories one encounters US spelling; adjusting the spelling to the setting would have been a thoughtful editorial touch There’s also the odd Americanism I have never heard the word ‘stroller’ used here for a pushchair maybe buggy at a pinch and using ‘figured’ for ‘thought’ as in “Figured you might not recognize me after all these years” is surely uestionable Have long have you lived here Lionel? But no matter I can forgive her anything because I love her This collection presents a fantastic mix of characters and storylines each making a telling point and linked not only by the theme of ‘property’ but also by an element of “be careful what you wish for” Shriver’s prose is ‘proper grown up’ and it’s worth slowing down one’s reading pace to savour her sentences Now who said I didn’t like short stories?


  6. says:

    I've had this collection in my TBR pile for a while and am so glad I decided finally to read it All are stories about the relationships people have with property The property they own or don't want or don't inherit or beueath buy or sell the list goes on I found myself taking sides and also seeing opposing points of view with plenty of eye rolling and laughter along the wayThe opening novella The Standing Chandelier was very engrossing and the perfect lead in to the collection While I didn't love every story my favourites in no particular order were the following Domestic Terrorism The Royal Male Exchange Rates Repossession The Chapstick Negative Euity The closing novella wasn't my favourite but overall this was a great collection of short stories and as it elicited uite strong feelings in me about property ownership and fairness I have to give this a very strong recommend


  7. says:

    4This was my first Lionel Shriver book and wow was it a good one Loved almost all of the stories here except one which I thought could've been left out but this is a very minor uibble all somehow related to the theme of property This sounds like a kind of odd theme to bind a short story collection tomorrow and I was sceptical to begin with But there are so many memorable stories to enjoy here set in the UK US and Kenya I don't know about other countries but most people in the UK are obsessed with property Owning it maintaining it renovating it I have to admit to regularly browsing Right Move and Zoopla looking at houses I'll never be able to afford So I guess what I'm trying to say is there is that after I started reading I realised there is a lot of potential for stories on this topic and all the many aspects of itI still have the book beside me this never happens so I'll pick out a few that have stuck with meThe Standing Chandelier one of the two novellas 80 pages and actually available to buy separately from the collection this story is about three incredibly unlikeable characters a couple and the woman who threatens to break them up due to her 25 year friendship with the man in the couple This made me feel uite uncomfortable but it was greatDomestic Terrorism an older married couple's son is in his early 30s unemployed and lives at home His only interest in life is manholes and his mother feels increasingly suffocated by his continued presence in the family home Another uncomfortable read I found myself racing through the story in order to find out how it was finally resolvedKilifi Creek a young woman travels to Kenya and ends up staying with a couple in the middle of nowhere Won't say much about this one so as not to spoil it but I liked how this endedVermin a young couple buy a house which seems too good to be true and well you can probably guess from the title what happens But what was best about this one was how the vermin affect the couple in different waysA very strong collection of short stories I think this has tied with You Think It I'll Say It as my favourite short story collection of the year so far I can't wait to read of Shriver's writing


  8. says:

    I guess like a lot of short story collections this was uneven in uality Some of it was great but some of it was really boring to me I read this via audiobook too which probably prevented me from enjoying some of the stories as Lionel Shriver herself narrates the book and she is AWFUL at accents Truly dreadful A lot of the stories take place in America so that's fine but some of them take place in the UK or other places and I could barely tell what she was saying It was bizarre In my 23 years of living in England I've never heard anyone talk the way Shriver seems to think English people talkAnyway Here's my ratings for the individual storiesThe standing chandelier 45 brilliant novella Some of the characters really made me angry and that's what good writing and character building is all about right?The self seeding sycha 2 set in London The first time Shriver's bizarre accents ocurred in this collection though I don't think I would have cared for the story either wayDomestic terrorism 35The royal male 35Exchange rates 45 This one was really good it's a really interesting story about money and familiesKilifi creek 2Reposession 3The chapstick 3Negative euity 3Vermin 3Paradise to perdition 35The subletter 1 I couldn't even finish this one Maybe I was just over the collection at this point and this is a 3 hour via audiobook novella I got about an hour in but I just don't care and the bad Irish accents are too much as wellI think I would maybe read The Standing Chandelier and Exchage Rates again and I'm excited to read Shriver but a lot of this wasn't great in my opinion


  9. says:

    I am a huge fan of Lionel Shriver and am warming to the short story format the I have delved into various collections over the past few months so this one ticked both my boxes I expected to enjoy them and certainly did The two longer stories at the beginning and end are my favourites ‘The Standing Chandelier’ and particularly ‘The Subletter’ but there isn’t one I didn’t like I think the whole set hangs together really well there are recurring themes of mental tracking of favours or picking up tabs for example and of the effect owning something has on a person This extends not just to physical possessions though these feature large but also to a kind of intellectual property as in ‘The Subletter’ where Sara finds it hard to give up her hard earned position as the self styled ‘American with the most complete understanding of Belfast’ As Sara says at the end ‘Sure any old bog could seem priceless so long as some other patsy was willing to fight you for it’Lionel Shriver’s sardonic wit shines through these tales of selfishness I was amused and abashed in eual measure some of her incisive insights hit a little too close to home for easy reading Brilliant writing and I can’t recommend highly enoughWith thanks to Harper Collins Borough Press via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC


  10. says:

    Brilliant Great entertainment serious food for thought and a vocabulary so rich you could get indigestion from devouring if it were the edible