Chris Belden’s Shriver might be called a book about a novelist who wrote a book called Goat Time which everybody seems to enjoy but nobody seems to have read, at least not entirely, including not the author Shriver himself.
Add to this nonsensical loop a few day’s worth of swarming mosquitoes, a crate or two of whiskey, and a parade of cheerleaders, lurking shadows, and self-centered artists through a mid-western college town and voila: a quick, witty parody of modern-day writerly conferences.
Readers of Shriver will encounter a range of characters from aspiring author and overweight corndog consumer Delta Malarkey-Jones to Blotto, the delivery boy and drunken cowboy professor T. Watzczesnam. We get talked down to from on high by arrogant playwright Basil Rather, yet may find some titillation in his well-endowed assistant, Lena Brazir (well endowed above and below the waist). We may learn to appreciate the personal pain of Native American Poetess Gonquin Smithee, even if it means making room for Ms. Labio, her puckered lover.
Fortunately, Belden doesn’t toss us in among this rabble without a right-minded guide or two, from grad student Edsel Nixon to Shriver’s beloved Professor Cleverly. Even Shriver himself is a form of sanity, on those rare occasions he hasn’t lost his marbles or drown himself in whiskey. But who wouldn’t go nuts or seek blind drunkenness in a world that features the Outer East Coast Inner Critics Circle Award, the Church of Pornocology, the Dusty Rose Rodeo Museum, and other points of interest in an unnamed whistle stop college town on the Black River?