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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  October 5, 2017 12:30am-1:01am BST

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i'm babita sharma with bbc world news. our top story: the fbi has been questioning the girlfriend of the las vegas gunman — who was in the philippines at the time of the massacre. marilou danley described stephen paddock as "kind, caring, and quiet" — and said she had no clue of the carnage he was planning. president trump has visited las vegas in the wake of sunday's attack, to offer support and thank the emergency services. the mass shooting left 58 people dead and more than 500 injured. people in india are changing their avatars and twitter displays to support two men who were attacked — apparently for having moustaches. that's all from me now. stay with bbc world news. it is half past midnight and now it is time for hardtalk.
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it was word of mouth that propelled the novel we need to talk about kevin onto the best seller lists. it had been given very little publicity. its author, lionel shriver, had struggled to find a publisher in the first place. it was deemed too dark and uncomfortable a read. the musings of a mother on the son she never really liked who turns into a mass killer. now the story has been made into a critically acclaimed film and is about to reach even larger audiences. why has such an unnatural tale proved so compelling? lionel shriver, welcome to hardtalk.
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a pleasure to be here. what it is like to be sitting in cannes watching your novel turned into a film with notable actors and the knowledge that only eight years ago you were struggling with a manuscript and a publisher? —— a few years ago. life has improved. it must be an amazing feeling. it is exciting, but at the same time it is strangely distant. notjust because i wrote the novel some time ago, but because the film is not my creation. it uses my characters, plot. it even uses the same point. but it is not mine in the same way. there is a release in that. i quite enjoyed the dispassion with which i greet it. it's lynne ramsay's creature. many novelists describe how they dislike watching the film because it is so different. she was true to the themes
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in your book, and you seem happy so far about the way that the book was portrayed. iam. and i'm fortunate because many novelists are not happy with what their books become but this is not the case here. it is a fine film. it has its own slant, but that is to be expected. they are your characters on the screen. and it makes up a few scenes, but for the most part i recognise the scenes from the book. it was hilarious for me seeing the name of the shabby travel agent that the main character works at in the present tense. it is called travel r us, which is meant to be tacky. it was a name i grabbed out of the air one day, and then the film—makers have
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to construct the whole thing. and seeing these things materialise, the small and often arbitrary choices, is hilarious for a fiction writer. the woman who made the film decided she wanted to make it well before the book was a commercial success. yes, she took a shine to it before it was on the bestseller list. that was a process repeated many times. you approached 30 publishing houses? i tried to get an agent for this book. i went through 17 agents in the us before i finally went directly to a publisher. to that woman's credit, she read it over the weekend
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and bought it on monday. in the uk, once we started to sell the british rights it went to 30 different companies before this little engine that could, serpent‘s tail, bought it for a small fee. it was something like £2,000, pathetic. by then we just wanted it out in print. i live in the uk and it was important that it was published here to me. we accepted it and the rest is history. you wrote to your ny literary agent and received back a wave of dismay and a request that you pay your photocopying bills. she did not like it. she hated it. they thought it was evil. she honestly thought it was evil and that it suggested that i was evil.
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yet, it struck a chord. there was an article suggesting that women in new york were very excited about the book. not only women but parents and prospective parents were grateful to see parents were depicted in fiction in a way that was not through rose—coloured glasses. it is de—romanticised. it is not simply a book about a high school killer. it is also about the early stages of raising a kid and how frustrating it is. and frankly how boring it is also. you might have a master's degree and you're teaching your child the alphabet. it is not necessarily exhilarating. i think that readers were grateful to see a portrait of a family
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that was notjust little kids around the dinner table saying witty things beyond their years. but it was more than that. it was more than boredom, it was that the mother did not like the child. a novel that recognises thatjust because a child is yours it does not mean that you relate to it emotionally. that children are strangers that you have to get to know. you may or may not like them. most parents probably do have at least bursts of some dislike and frustration with their children. this book gives people like that permission because previously we have been told: you have this undying, unqualified unconditional love for your child.
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and when you did not always experience that, you think there is something wrong with you. the media has always said that if you do not feel that way, you had better keep your mouth shut. this is a novel that finally gave mothers permission to think that. you breached what you described as the last taboo. it is amazing that i could find a taboo that we had not broken. especially the unqualified love between mother and son was somthing we were unready to question. you became what you described as a poster—girl for maternal ambivalence. people looked at your life and asked how you could know,
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you don't have children. that is written about in the latest versions of the book. that was one of the main reasons you did not have children, that you may not love your child. i concede that it was sneaky of me to write a novel about a mother—son relationship when i did not have any children myself. but i think that the fact that i do not have children, especially a son, made it possible to write his book. if i had a son who i knew would grow up and read it i think it would have been inhibiting. it is interesting to see the reaction from women. it was polarising in many ways. interestingly, what polarised the readership was the issue of responsibility. it poses a dry question about nature vs nurture. whose fault was this atrocity?
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was the problem that this poor little boy grew up with a loveless mother and was distorted into a monster? or was there something wrong with him from birth and that is not his mother's fault? the readership really cleaved into fierce camps. i have been told over and over again that bookclubs get into ferocious fights. half of them thought it was the mother's fault who got what she deserved. the other half said that the boy was evil. they say she could not have done anything. i like this stuff. i like to sit on the sidelines
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and watch them fight it out. and you did sit on the sidelines. there is always a point when i do an event and someone says, now that we have you here, could you please settle this issue? was it kevin's fault, was there something wrong with him, or was it his mother's fault? and i pretty reliably say: i have not told you in 400 pages. i am not going to now. that question... you've been asked about your own experiences, you said you decided at the age of seven that you did not want to have children. there was never a moment of broodiness in your life? i would not call it broodiness, but the moment i came to re—examining that decision was in this book. and you wrote at a point in your 40s when it would have
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been your last chance. yes, let's not let eight—year—old vows go unexamined in adults. so i had to think about it. most of all the book is a contemplation of what it was about motherhood which frightened me. much of it frightens me. the original manuscript was 200 pages longer. so what is it about motherhood that frightens you ? despite the mess and the boredom of teaching the alphabet to a four—year—old? the subsidiary nature of it, if that is a word. the putting someone else first. i know that does not make me sound very good, but that's all right. i am not used to putting someone else first and being morally obliged to put someone else first. i was anxious that it would disturb my sense of who i was.
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that the invasion of another person and their needs would obliterate me in some ways. i think women often have this experience of having who they understand themselves to be, unsettled. having a child completely shakes their confidence about their own identity. it was such an unusual argument to hear when you came up with kevin and you made this point. did you get a response from someone who haven't had children? saying, at last, i could here for another reason. i did get any number of people, and still do, coming up to me and saying: you have justified my decision or what is even worse, my boyfriend and i read that book and now we have decided
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we are not having kids. it was never the purpose of the novel. i never intended to become a poster girl for barren women. i am not on a campaign to stop reproduction and therefore to bring the human race to a conclusion. you said, the whole idea of what it means to be a female. when you were 15 you changed your name from margaret ann to lionel. you are quoted as saying that you always resented the confinement of being female. yes. did you then feel confined, do you feel now that you are confined ? of course we are all confined by one thing or another. one thing that confines me now is that i do not have children. it is the experience of parenthood, and of lineage, carrying on a lineage, it is
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closed off to me. that is a kind of confinement. we make our choices and we are trapped by them. you did not feel any more confined being a woman? you changed your name to a man's name, you wanted to be a man? i want to be everybody. i want to be both genders. that is what fiction writing is about. it's an exploration. it is trying to get out and understand what it is like to be other people. that is true for the writer and the reader. i am a big reader as well. when we look at the other subjects you have done, you are described as fairly merciless, unrelenting. these are the words sometimes used to describe some of your work. what you did with a perfectly good family, was write about one family and inheritance...
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you are one of three children, and it caused great tension within your own family. you described it as "entering perilous territory." why was that? i deliberately wanted to enter perilous territory. that is when it starts getting interesting. that is the only book i have ever written that was more or less based on people i knew, in this case my family. the setting is made up. it is a fight between three siblings over the inheritance of the house in which they grow up. this is not the house in which i grew up. your parents are still alive? my parents are very much alive. there was the story in the book and then there is the story of the book.
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the story of the book was as big as the one in. my family was very upset by that. it was one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't things. if you change lot of things, you change the perfections and the plot, you change everything... then they say, i did not do that, i did not say that, this is a total distortion. but then if you use anything from real life it is a betrayal and exposure. your parents threatened to disinherit you, your younger brother who you are very close to did not speak to you for a couple of years. that's right. has your relationship with your family been patched up? yes, it has. but it's patched up, rather than back to what it was? everyone remembers. and so do i. things were said they should not have been said. i am glad that we have all got past it. it gave me some pause. i have had to reflect since. now that i am not obliged
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to be quite so defensive. if somebody wrote a book in which i was a character and not portrayed in an entirely flattering light, i do not think i would like it either. if there is anyjustice in this world, someone is out there writing about me. unfortunately, there is not usually justice in this world. you said, even knowing, if you knew what was going to happen, you still would have written the book? yes, that is right. it is a good book as far as i am concerned.
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it is funny. it gets out an interesting issue about inheritance. but it damaged your relationship with your family irrevocably. i do not know who said it was that writers have to have a piece of ice in their heart, and i suppose i do. yes, i would make the emotional sacrifice to write the book. i do not think that necessarily reflects well on me. but i liked the book and i am glad i wrote it. that said, if i had to do it again, i think i would find five or six lines that i would get rid of and the book would still be... it would still be a good book without those lines. it would give justice to it without those lines. that is not the kind of perspective you often achieve by publication. that is the kind of perspective you get ten years later. you say you like perilous territory, it is the interesting territory, you like the difficult things. many people might wonder what is driving you. your treatment of every
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story is a sort of — it's hard, it is difficult. it makes difficult reading. my goodness, many people who read your books say it can change your life, but they want to put it down because it is so tough to read. we do not need more books in which boy meets girl, boy and girl breaks up, boy and girl gets together again. there are a lot of books out there. i want to make some contribution in the short time i am around. i am looking around in the dark corners where nobody has explored before. that way i am serving a purpose. i am very interested in the difference between what life is supposed to be like and what it's really like. kevin, for example, is an explanation of that dissonance. it is a dissonance that
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most normal people feel. it is notjust something for fictional characters or writers. you are always dealing with the tension between your expectations and what you have been told, what adulthood is like, what getting married is like, then you find out for yourself and it is very different. could you write about your husband? sure, i would. he hasn't banned you? he is incredibly generous on that point. he has made an appearance from time to time in one form or another. he says that is fiction and that is yourjob. he has never said, you'd better take that out.
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he is very open hearted on that one. you have been writing about obesity, your elder brother... that is a book that i have not completed yet. it is almost finished. what drove you to turn to the subject was that your brother died young as a result of obesity? the complications of morbid obesity. he had diabetes. your particular concern is the movement within the us in particular, that, look, this is an acceptable way to live? i am not writing about the fat pride movement. it is more personal than that. there will come a time when i am more interested in talking about this, but this book is not finished yet. it's exactly the kind of subject that i am always on the lookout for. 0n the one hand, this
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is a huge social problem, it is an economic problem on the health service in the uk as well as the us. it is also an extremely personal problem and an emotional one. people have intense feelings about their weight these days. because of that, that is what i am always looking for. it has some social ramifications, but it's perfect for fiction because it's a private story. what seems strange about you in many ways is that you write about these difficult subjects, you write them in a difficult way, in an unforgiving way, yet you write about how thin—skinned you are with critics. i have said that i remember the bad reviews rather than good ones. you forget the good ones. absolutely. if you talk to most writers, they'd say the same thing. i do not think i am particularly thin—skinned. it is ludicrous to pretend that if someone says incredibly mean things about something that
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you worked very hard on and it does not affect you. 0n the other hand, my experience with kevin has been that i have now read, and i am sorry to sound arrogant, so many positive reviews of that book that when i trip across a negative one i blow it off. there was one from the irish times that was so over—the—top, she hated it so much! it made me laugh. on that book, it's done well, i'm not worried about it. lionel shriver, thank you for coming on hardtalk. my pleasure. good morning.
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the farmers may well have ploughed fields but that hasn't stopped our weather watchers from posting photos of the harvest moon. it has clouded over. not quite a full moon. 98%. we will see the full moon tonight. the time being, the cloud has arrived and we will see strong winds and rain but the next few hours and then that eases away through the south—east corner. it would be a damp old start first thing saturday morning. —— thrusday morning. if you are travelling to work they will be outbreaks of rain and is still pretty blustery.
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behind it, quite a clearance and some decent spells of sunshine to look forward to. not a bad start through northern england, northern ireland and scotland. scattering of showers to the north and west that they should be isolated. into the afternoon, we continue with the risk of a few showers and maybe one or two showers driven along by the north—westerly breeze to the north midlands. it should be dry with spells of sunshine. the winds lighter and we will see highs likely at 11 to 17 degrees. 63 in terms of fahrenheit. with the clearest skies by day, it will lead into clear skies by night. for the football, it could turn chilly and that is worth bearing in mind if you are going to watch the international matches. the reason for the chilly feel, high pressure is set to build further west. quieten things down quite nicely but it means actually start
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to our friday morning before more wet and windy weather arrives at the start of the weekend. friday morning first thing, we could see a touch of light frost and that is certainly worth bearing in mind if you are a gardener or a grower. despite the chilly start, there will be lovely spells of sunshine coming through. temperatures will recover. 9-16. by the end of the day, more cloud into the western scotland and northern ireland. a cloudy weekend ahead for many of us. there will be rain around and particularly into the north and west. the best of the bright spells into the east. saturday looks likely to be the most unsettled day after a misty, murky start, the showers will be light and by sunday, things will be that little bit quieter and any showers will be chiefly out to the north and west. highs againii— i7. enjoy. i'm rico hizon in singapore, the headlines: the fbi questions the girlfriend of the las vegas
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gunman after she flies back from the philippines. through a lawyer, she says she had no clue of the carnage he was planning. "he never said anything to me or took any action that i was aware of, that i understood in any way to be a warning." president trump visits las vegas in the wake of sunday's mass shooting to offer support and thank the emergency services. i'm babita sharma in london. also in the programme: securing afg hanistan‘s future. president ashraf ghani tells the bbc his country has turned the corner. life through the lens. we meet the man whose photographs tell the story of hong kong
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