Lionel Shriver's Novel ”Mania”—Alternate History Of The Great Awokening Era
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Earlier (2018) Lionel Shriver: ”How Mass Immigration Drives the Housing Crisis”

From the review in the Washington Post of right-of-center novelist Lionel Shriver’s new book Mania:

The story takes place from 2011 to 2027 in an alternative America where, for most of that time, something called the Mental Parity movement holds sway. In the novel, the so-called last acceptable bias—discrimination against those considered, um, not so smart—is being stamped out. Words such as “intelligent” and “sharp” are forbidden, thus making problematic the question of how to refer to books like “My Brilliant Friend” and everyday devices such as “smartphones.”

Shriver’s choice to set her novel in an alternative timeline recent past is an interesting one. Her The Mandibles was set in a somewhat vague future, where society is in decay but could not be said to be quite post-apocalyptic like Brave New World or 1984, a bit like Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange or Walker Percy’s 1971 novel Love in the Ruins, which is set in a 1983 that rather resembles America in the 2020s.

It sounds like a Nurture version of Mike Judge’s Nature documentary Idiocracy.

Yet, imagining a plausible future can be exhausting to anyone above a certain age, and even the present is a distraction. Are you sure you understand 2024? I’m not at all sure. Maybe you should skim Twitter some more to make sure you are up to date on 2024 trends?

So why not set your novel in an alternative timeline in a recent past that you remember well, such as Shriver’s choice of 2011 to 2017?

I could imagine writing an alternative timeline novel of the Great Awokening (except that writing fiction is really hard).

…Don’t ask where anyone went to school. Don’t tell anyone where you went to school, even if you went to Yale—well, especially if you went to Yale! … Don’t ever mention, or fish for, IQ, obviously, but also SAT and ACT scores or grade point averages. You’re even meant to keep your trap shut about how well you did on newspaper quizzes on the major stories of the week. And forget asking or telling about a performance on Jeopardy!

Uh-oh, reminiscing about my performance on Jeopardy! is about 5% of my material…

… in 2015, the Democratic Party seizes on Donald Trump as their “shoo-in” candidate for, among myriad other reasons, the fact that “he never reads.”

Okay, that’s funny.

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