Thursday, January 19, 2017

"The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047" (NO SPOILERS)

Alas, the dystopian future of Lionel Shriver's novel strikes me as dismally plausible; the relatively optimistic and comforting conclusion, much less so.

Still, a small collection of quotes toward the end made me at least smile wryly:

  • "[R]epairing their own properties, tilling gardens, walking to save on fuel, and beating intruders with baseball bats had rendered Americans impressively fit."  p. 333 (nice use of a standard humor technique, the list with a twist; though it would be funnier to have only three items in the list -- I'd have deleted the second item)
  • "Rumors had long circulated about the 'über-rich.'  In folklore, these pampered fiscal vampires had retreated to fortified islands of sumptuous abandon, ... while their countrymen starved.  To discover ... that, if nothing else, they may not have escaped one another [] was satisfying."  p. 370 (considering that I just took a course on vampire folklore...!)
  • "It cared nothing for virtue.  It was crass, it was loud, it was heathen.  It was silly, and it was fake -- honestly, admittedly fake, which gave it a genuineness of a sort.  It did not apologize for itself."  p. 383 (written of a particular city, but potentially applicable to certain other contemporary phenomena...)
  • One character "took up coaching the debate team at their local high school, teaching precocious teenagers how to be show-off know-it-alls who tested adult patience.  He was very popular with the kids."  p. 401 (a cheap shot, but it works here)
The book is heavily laced with pointed observations and commentaries which are often, but not always, placed in the mouths of characters.  Two examples from late in the book:
  • "Presidents always rail against 'billionaires and trillionaires,' and then the top bracket conveniently kicks in, not at a billion, but 250K."  p. 383 (character dialogue)
  • "Everything in [a particular] newspaper wasn't accurate, but the odds of a given factoid being at least sort-of-true were better than fifty-fifty, which beat the internet by a yard." p. 400
And a prediction, of sorts, of the Clinton family's future relevance after a series of crises:
  • "The Chelsea Clinton administration quietly assumed that [_____] would crumple into a whimpering, remorseful heap within months if not weeks.  Except it's been five years."  p. 390 (character dialogue, year 2047)
(In light of the society described in year 2047, I would not say this prediction is one that puts the Clintons in a favorable light.)

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