Barber notes that a copy of Shriver's first novel, The Female of the Species costs US$200 on AbeBooks. Shriver will speak at the Sydney Writers Festival, coming early next month. And "we still know surprisingly little about her life", admits Barber. Most of what Barber then provides is already available on Wikipedia. But there are a few new details.
She was born on May 18, 1957, in North Carolina, the middle child of three with brothers on either side. Her father was a Presbyterian minister and later president of the Union Theological Seminary in New York, and she idolised him. Her mother was a homemaker until Lionel was 15 when she started working for the National Council on Churches. They were a deeply religious fmaily — there were family prayers and Bible readings over dinner. She said in the past: "There is a very thin line in my family between God and my father." When she was 12 she announced that she wasn't going to church, and "my father literally dragged me into the car by my hair. And that carried on for a while and then finally, when I was 16, he couldn't do it any more."
Shriver admits this upbringing affected her. "I'm not satisfied by liberal platitudes. I like the hard case." She has also been very interested in demographics "since she was 15". She worries about shrinking populations in the first world.
She spent her 20s doing a degree in Russian and English at Columbia University, and then running a catering company in New York while also teaching freshmen's courses and remedial English in the south Bronx. She lived in Belfast, Israel, Nairobi and Thailand before settling in London 20 years ago.
I wonder when we're going to get more information on what she was doing flitting around the globe? What sort of things did she do out there? And how have those experiences influenced her ideas on demography?