Monday, October 7, 2013

Reasons not to have children

My reading craze has continued at a steady and rather breakneck pace. I'm happy to see it returned after months of drought. It makes me worried when I'm not motivated to read. It feels like something is wrong. Usually something is.

Oddly when it's back it doesn't mean exactly that everything is right but at least things are on the mend. That's all I can ask for.

Anyway, I've been reading books like crazy and one of the ones I finished this past weekend is "We Need to Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver.

I was introduced to Lionel Shriver the summer of 2011 when my sister and I were sitting in our Crete hotel hiding from the riots that were going on outside. Five star hotels have channels in English and room service and we were taking it easy watching whatever was on, lazying about on the bed occasionally taking naps, and sipping ice cold milky ouzo. It was a good day, despite the weird situation.

One of the things we ended up watching was a fantastic interview with Lionel Shriver, who was talking about the upcoming film based on one of her books; the book I've just read. It was causing a stir because it was about a rather controversial subject: it's narrated from the point of view of a mother whose son has just committed a Columbine-like high school massacre.

Naturally this subject doesn't go over lightly. 

I was instantly intrigued because Ms. Shriver is an engaging speaker. Obviously intelligent and thoughtful, but also opinionated and unique. She's from the States but has lived most of her life in the UK. She talked of motherhood and how she ended up choosing not to have children of her own (it is not for the reason that she writes about, but she says she did have fears about having children and this book is her way of facing it).

I was enchanted.

The last day of our Greece trip, when I was alone in Athens, I strolled into a bookshop and found an English copy of one of her books, "The Post-Birthday World." I finished it in days; it was one of the best books I'd read. Smart, engaging, beautifully well-written, and incredibly thought-provoking. It was about the choices we make in love and the fears we feel that we made the wrong choice. It follows a woman who is in a stable relationship with a nice and warm but boring man but who falls in love with a passionate professional snooker player who has a more adventurous and up and down lifestyle. The book then follows her life in both cases: if she stays with the man in the stable relationship or she leaves him and goes with the passionate love of her life. Fascinating and something I think every woman has always thought about.

"We Need to Talk About Kevin" does a similar thing, though perhaps not so visibly. It deals with what about motherhood scares women: what if your kid is a monster, do you lose your sense of self in the process, do you lose your partner when you introduce another presence, etc. The dividing line is the argument of nature vs. nurture: in the end we all know that this woman's son does the horrible thing he does. But is it her fault or is it his? Was she saddled with a monster from the beginning or was it her disinterest in having this child that caused him to become what he did? There is no real answer.

In the end it was the best book I've read this year thusfar. Year isn't over yet, of course, but I've read a decent number and caliber of books this year and it's going to be hard to top this.

Read at your own risk, since there aren't many likable characters and the reading gets hard as it's a very emotional theme, but it's worth it. Made me think more than anything else in a long time.

Now to see the movie. 

You can see the interview here. It's slightly less than 25 minutes long; take a look if you're interested.

And as a last note to any who are wondering: this doesn't mean I'm not interested in having children, nor would I discourage anyone from having children. But these are things I am now considering. And at my current dating rate with seems that's a choice I may not have to make on my own anyhow (harhar). So I guess we'll see what the future holds. At least now I have other things to think about.

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