A few questions for Lionel Shriver.


BM: How did you do the research for Big Brother?

LS: Having eaten my whole life helped. Having dabbled in fasting in my 20s (when younger I was fascinated with control; now I haven't the faintest interest in testing my capacity to starve, which is far more boring to me lately than economics) helped to inform the all-liquid diet section of the novel. I also interviewed a good friend who has done the Cambridge diet more than once, to considerable effect. But this wasn't a research-heavy project. Setting the novel in Iowa was a pleasure, since my younger brother lives there. Visiting him while the manuscript was underway meant paying attention to a state I had previously taken for granted. I was happy to discover that I really love it. The skies, all that corn--the landscape is incredibly moving. The people are decent, open, and convivial, and finally I understood in a deep sense why my brother put down roots there.

BM: Is there policy or public perception you hope to influence with Big Brother?

LS: I deliberately avoided some of the political arguments circling obesity: the fat pride movement, the demonization of Big Food, controversies over fat taxes. This is a novel, and the place to address such issues would surely be in nonfiction. In general, though, the book focuses on the characters' relationship to food, diet, and their own bodies, so it loosely puts what we eat and what we weigh in our own laps. I suppose I resist approaches to obesity that place responsibility for the nation's weight...

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