Connection and disconnection

Lionel Shriver and Angela Joyce

Photo: James Royall

Monday 18th June, 2007 | Posted by Caroline Graty

Connecting Conversations is a series of events at which psychoanalysts talk to leaders in other fields in order to make new connections; connections between ideas, between disciplines and between people. But it was the recurring theme of disconnection, separation and disengagement that made the first Holloway Arts Festival event so fascinating.

The conversation between psychoanalyst Angela Joyce and writer Lionel Shriver focused on Shriver’s novel We Need to Talk About Kevin. The novel is narrated by Eva, whose son Kevin has committed a high-school massacre. Taking the reader on a tense and troubling journey, she recounts the story in an attempt to come to some sort of understanding of events and to weigh up the extent of her own culpability.

The discussion of the novel, and of the writing and reading process, uncovered the gap between characters’ perceptions of one another, the gap between a reader’s understanding of a work and the author’s intention and the gap between literature and reality. ‘There is a difference between analysing real people and fictional characters,’ Shriver reminded us. ‘Don’t confuse Eva’s sadism with that of the author.’

It was perhaps the intellectual disconnection between Shriver and Joyce that made for such a vibrant evening. There was a fundamental difference in their perception of the book’s ending, for example; Shriver said it showed a glimpse of postivity while Joyce thought it was a chilling and ‘pathological’ conclusion. A book that generates extremes of opinion, it's not surprising that it is a reading group favourite. ‘It causes fights in book clubs,’ Shriver joked.


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