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Reader's Den: "The Post-Birthday World" Week Two
Welcome to week two of this month’s Reader’s Den! In The Post-Birthday World, the Irinas in both parallel stories are children's book illustrators. In discussing the theme of her latest children's book, Irina lays out the premise of the novel.
"The idea is you don't have only one destiny. Younger and younger, kids are pressed to decide what they want to do with their lives, as if everything hinges on one decision. But whichever direction you go, there are going to be upsides and downsides. You're dealing with a set of trade-offs, and not one perfect course in comparison to which all the others are crap. The idea is to take the pressure off. Martin gets to express many of the same talents in each story, but in different ways. There are varying advantages and disadvantages to each competing future. But I didn’t want to have one bad future and one good. In both, everything is all right, really. Everything is all right." Ramsey asked plaintively, "In the snooker story -- why couldn't he win the World?" Irina laughed. "Because that would undermine my thesis. Snooker isn't his sole destiny, even if it works out in many regard very well. And you don't have to win the World to be a great snooker player, right?" "Bollocks!" he said with a laugh, and clinked her glass. (pages 379-80)
"The Post-Birthday World is the author's eighth novel and, I suspect, her most autobiographical. Its heroine, Irina, is of Russian descent, so she speaks the language Shriver studied at university; she likes to cook with lots of chillies, as does Shriver; they both shop at Oxfam and find the tips of their fingers get chilly because of Reynaud's disease. More tellingly, they are both Americans in London who ended secure, long-term relationships with fellow intellectuals because they fell for more creative types -- in Shriver's case a jazz drummer, in Irina's a world-class snooker player. But there's one big difference: Shriver only got one life, the one she chose when she left her partner. Irina gets two, which run alongside each other in parallel chapters."
Also, check out the e-book of The Post-Birthday World!