5.10.2009

what i'm reading: a l kennedy

I've just finished reading Day, by A. L. Kennedy, one of my favourite contemporary writers.

I loved the book, but I don't want to say too much about it, because - as with all of Kennedy's novels that I've read - it's best experienced totally cold. She has an uncanny talent for unfolding the basic facts of a story - place, time, background of the main character - in surprising ways. Reviews and book jacket synopses that unwind the whole thing and piece it back together ruin the joy of discovery.

So I won't tell you plot, only theme. The book deals with World War II, the "good" war, but offers a perspective that reminds us - sometimes subtly, sometimes loudly - that there is no good war. Perhaps some war is unavoidable - the book never comments on that - but everyone on all sides is left damaged. And the damages of modern warfare are unique and plentiful. Day is about war, love, courage, identity and belongingness. Like all A. L. Kennedy novels, it's about human frailty, cruelty, kindness, and the blind groping to make connections with others.

Kennedy is young, Scottish and amazingly talented. She writes novels, documentaries, radio plays, TV dramas - and she does stand-up comedy! Check out the FAQs on her website. Here's a sample.
I AM A PUBLISHER WITH, RATHER WORRYINGLY, YOUR CONTACT DETAILS AND I AM POSTING YOU THIS BOOK, WILL YOU READ IT AND WRITE ME A BRIEF ENCOMIUM FOR IT ?

No. Unless I'm amazingly unbusy this won't happen, either. I'd love to be more help, but I have no time to do so. Reading your book would cause me to miss out on seeing my pals, sleeping and taking nourishment. It would also stop me getting on with my own writing. Well done for knowing what an encomium is - you must be proper publisher. And therefore you'll be worried about your job. Sorry.

I AM A JOURNALIST - WILL YOU MIND WHEN I RIP OFF SOME OR INDEED MOST OF THIS AND USE IT TO FILL UP MY COLUMN, AS IT WERE?

D'you know, I just expect it - I really do. On you go, knock yourself out. If you don't feel bad about it already then there's nothing I can do to make you.

DO YOU HATE JOURNALISTS ?

No, some of my best friends are journalists. Well, two of my best friends are journalists and I chat to some of the rest of them. And they are currently working under insane amounts of pressure from all sides. They are a fine thing and let me know what's going on where I am not and are an essential element in any healthy democracy. I just loathe bad and lazy journalism - which undermines democracy, misinforms me and helped take my country into an illegal war rather recently.

WILL YOU HELP ME WITH MY DISSERTATION/ TRANSLATION/ THESIS/ ESSAY ?

No. Lack of time again. Plus, I would be of absolutely no use to you in this regard - I do not think along academic lines. Best of luck and I'd advise you to avoid the whole Woman Writer area and the Scottish Writer thingy. Very dull.

I AM VERY, VERY UNHINGED AND WANT TO EMAIL, PHONE, STALK AND PERHAPS KILL SOMEONE - SHOULD I GET IN TOUCH ?

Oddly, I'd rather you didn't. I know you may have bonded with whoever you think I am and/or developed a weirdly intense relationship with my work, but that doesn't mean we're pals, or ever could be. I have enough pals already.

That's a small sample; there's a long page full of this.

I haven't loved everything I've read by Kennedy, but I don't have to. Some of my favourite musicians make music that I dislike, but I'd rather they try new things and move in new directions than endlessly repeat themselves and become self-parodies. Similarly, I admire Kennedy's willingness to go in different directions, and I don't feel I have to love everything she does in order to highly recommend her work. And the novels I like of hers, I love.

My favourite books of Kennedy's (so far) have been So I Am Glad and Bliss, and now I add Day to the list. I'm going to read Paradise soon.

If you read fiction, and you haven't yet read A. L. Kennedy, I hope you will soon remedy that.

4 comments:

L-girl said...

If you peruse Kennedy's website, please do check out what she links to. The political links are especially interesting to me.

L-girl said...

Her "biography" is also amusing.

M@ said...

I found Paradise in a bookstore just yesterday and picked it up, on your advice. I'll let you know how it goes.

L-girl said...

Cool! I haven't read Paradise yet, so if you don't like it, please don't give up on her writing. Day is a must-read for you, for several reasons.