Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver

Lionel Shriver is a columnist at The Spectator and author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, among other books.

Are bad parents criminals?

In 2005 my seventh novel, about an unloving mother tortured by whether her son’s high-school mass murder was all her fault, designated me the go-to girl for commentary about school shootings. Consequently, the overweight, tremulous, flush-faced Jennifer Crumbley belongs to me. Known for arguably overloaded character names, I couldn’t have invented a better surname for

Can Trump ever get a fair trial?

I’m an unlikely defender of Donald Trump. Politically, he’s not my boy. Most of the former president’s hyperbolic rants make me cringe. Yet last week, I had to agree with DT that a jury’s award of $83.3 million of his assets to E. Jean Carroll for defamation was ‘absolutely ridiculous’. Keeping track of all the cases

America is seeing a tiny civil war in Texas

Pundits these days often warn that America may be on the brink of civil war. Finally, they’re right – except that in tiny Eagle Pass, Texas, forget being on the brink. In microcosm, civil war is already under way. Once again playing immigration hardball, last week the Texas governor Greg Abbott, the vile, heartless Republican

Hell hath no fury like the left scorned

Over a leg of lamb, I joined five other expat Americans for Christmas. Our topic du jour was which faction in our homeland we were most afraid of. Revisiting that boisterous conversation appeals, because in this re-enactment, I’m the only one who gets to talk. With forbidding rapidity, one armchair assertion has gone from audacious

No one wants to talk about Ukraine any more

Apologies for this seasonal downer. Had the website such a listing, this column would surely soar to number one in The Spectator’s ‘Least Popular’ roster. For just now, few topics are a bigger turn-off than Ukraine. Following Russia’s invasion, I got caught up in the same waves of emotion that washed over most western publics,

The government could tackle immigration – if it really wanted to

I’m fascinated by the subject of immigration because I’m a sucker for moral complexity. For decades, too, I’ve been an immigrant myself, though I’ve played by the rules (at some cost), and I’ve never been a burden on the state (to the contrary). Besides, I am by nature territorial. Even having perfectly agreeable house-sitters in

Progressives appeal to base emotions

In public events, I’ve sometimes given an unexpectedly appreciative nod to the hard left. It’s laudable, I allow, to stick up for the disadvantaged. Young people naturally hope to revamp the creaky, hypocritical institutions they inherit, just as my generation did in the 1960s. Fairness – a more complex concept than it first appears –

What did Hamas think was going to happen?

Much misfortune the woebegone couldn’t have seen coming: a raging fire in the house next door that spreads to yours. The invention of some kooky technology called ‘the internet’ that puts your travel agency out of business. Yet other calamities are foreseeable. If you suddenly stop filing tax returns without a good excuse – like,

Keep your politics à la carte

It’s a truism that the Anglosphere has developed a ‘tribalism’ that rivals the divisions between the Kikuyu and Luhya in Kenya. One pernicious aspect of mutually hostile groupsterism is prix fixe politics. Your side shares a rigid, prescribed collection of beliefs, and joining the club entails embracing every single one, while despising a compulsory roster

I’m leaving Britain – and I feel guilty

I’m torn between headlining this column ‘Why I’m moving to Portugal’ and ‘Why I’m leaving the UK’. Exhausted, shadowed by tippling towers of cardboard, once more unable to put my hands on a black marker when I bought a whole box or to locate a tape gun when we have bloody four of them, in

Shoplifters need to feel shame

This is my brother’s story and, like many telling stories, it’s small. Tim lives in Iowa, as our mother’s family did, a lightly populated state smack in the centre of the US, and breadbasket to the world. Its rolling hills, panoramic skies and cornfields stippling to the horizon exude what I can only call wholesomeness.

Children need protection from adult madness

The Texas Supreme Court just upheld a state law banning so-called gender-affirming care for minors, to explosive consternation from predictable quarters. Progressive commentators portray this and similar laws passed by more than a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures as ‘anti-LGBTQIA+’. In truth, the laws are aimed not at that whole bramble of capital letters, but solely

Therapy has turned on itself

Were I to overcome a lifelong scepticism about the healing powers of talk therapy, I imagine languishing on a psychiatrist’s divan and whimpering something along these lines: ‘All this “woke” stuff – I’ve even come to hate the word. Resisting its idiocies is taking over my life. I worry that I’m not setting my own

How the West plays up to Putin’s caricature

In an outstanding article in the New York Times, Roger Cohen recounted his experience of travelling across Russia for a full month, and hats off to the veteran journalist for risking a shared cell with the Wall Street Journal ‘spy’ Evan Gershkovich. Cohen explains that Vladimir Putin is successfully flogging his war in Ukraine to

The problem with the Bibby Stockholm barge

For British taxpayers perturbed by their £6 million daily bill for housing asylum seekers in hotels, New York City mayor Eric Adams has the solution: handbills. Exasperated by a sudden influx he characterises as a ‘disaster’, Adams plans to dispense police-tape yellow flyers both at the city’s 188 sites for housing migrants and at America’s

Heritable guilt is in vogue

I made a poor excuse for a Presbyterian even as a kid. I resented religious indoctrination every precious school-free Sunday. Yet despite my apostatic nature, any number of biblical tenets with broad secular application have become touchstones. Of particular value during our post-Floydian festival of flagellation is Ezekiel 18: ‘The son shall not bear the

The truth about ‘affirmative action’

I’ve never cared for the expression ‘affirmative action’, which puts a positive spin on a negative practice: naked, institutionalised racial discrimination – that is, real ‘systemic racism’, which was initiated in the United States long before the expression came into fashion. After all, following the Civil War, the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution

The unspeakable truth about housing

Earlier this year I was a panellist for Any Questions, and a young man in the audience asked what could possibly be done to make it easier for Britons his age to buy currently unaffordable property. I said what none of my fellow panellists was foolish enough to venture on the radio: scarcity always raises

The weather isn’t ‘climate change’

I was in New York while the smoke from Canadian wildfires filtered over the city for three days last week, and I took a guilty pleasure in the aesthetic thrill. Midday, the light assumed the roseate hue of sunset. A cloudless sky appeared overcast, and the ghostly sun was so occluded one could look straight

The case against Ulez – by a cyclist

Whether you’re more afraid of the forces of order or the forces of chaos is generally a matter of disposition. A natural anti-authoritarian who despises being told what to do – especially when told to do something stupid – I’m more horrified by excesses of order. Granted, my greater fear of the state may simply