Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Monday 7 May 2012

"Indelible Acts" by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape, 2002)

Lots of sex where emotion involves a third person. There are middle-age breakdowns of various types. The main characters are often men, though it's not always clear. One gets the impression sometimes that the only way to change is to suffer brain injury - here's the first and final sentence of each story

  • Things could go wrong with one letter, he knew that now ... That's how I should be
  • It's unmistakable, organic, the flavour of something live ... But, finally, it seems she has developed a complete immunity
  • Yes ... Hot little word
  • I wouldn't want to say so, but it's freezing in here ... And it really should be very amusing that this will go on, that I have nothing better, that no matter what, I still want to be sure that we won't leave each other alone.
  • Ronald was holding on ... Ronald would wait to get older and stronger and then it would hasten, he'd make it: he'd be bad son
  • He was driving to pick up the boxes when he realised what was making him most afraid: the arithmetic ... There would be a moment today and he would reach it and he would catch it and understand that he would be ready to see her then, he would be ready perfectly
  • It wasn't difficult ... We must both look at him, walking in sunlight and find him beautiful
  • This is where you end up, then, your last resort ... She didn't know if she was crying, whether anyone could see, and the clouds dragged over the evening hills in silence and there was nothing left for her to burn
  • Danny wondered where he was: where he was ... He didn't know what should happen after that
  • I would prefer not to open my eyes, not this morning ... Nothing has changed
  • You should tell everyone nothing: especially nothing about love … It is beautiful and terrible and blinding and you will never understand the trick of it
  • The thunder had battered and turned above the house for most of the night and they had stayed in their separate bed-rooms, Sarah watching the woods cracked open, stripped out of the dark … That's all right

In "Spared", morbid emptiness comes over a man during what seems a perfect affair. "Awaiting an adverse reaction" is much shorter (4 pages). The good ending doesn't quite save it. Often (sometimes too fatalistically) the situation mirrors the psychology. In "How to find your way in woods", for example, a couple investigate the chances of reconciliation by walking in the woods after a storm. In "Not anything to do with love", someone who barely knew the deceased attends a cremation service and notices, about halfway through the story, an ex amongst the congregation. The balance of the two parts didn't seem right to me. As in "A bad son", the new plot ingredient introduced halfway through the story seemed like a literary ploy.

She uses metaphor where many would use simile - "Dave widened his eyes for an instinct and then took her glance, drew it, and lit a live pause in her before he blinked away", p.196. When describing a heightened experience, metaphors come thick and fast

  • Howie still cradled himself, now facing the doorway and knowing a thick lift of want was taking his weight from his finger. He was yowling with solidity, pressing his thought up and forward into one or two beads of clarified despair. Before lack and embarrassment and, almost undoubtedly, fear slammed at him and started to wither his hopes, p.38
  • Ronald shut his eyes and let himself slip and be part of a big, long shine and he smiled and smiled and stretched back so that he was lying down, resting on it, the way that another boy might, one who did this all the time. He'd been scared before he started, but you could only be scared for a while and then it changed - became something else - this time it had burst to nothing, to a hot, white light that was marvellous and still and he was so happy with it that he let the day take his breath, p.65-66
  • The best love is a little like light. It is unremitting, cannot fail to find you, to take the shortest, surest way, as if that were marked out as part of your nature, the line where you and love are made to meet. It is your law, the physics of your life. It will move from somewhere to nowhere and back again and it will make you lost. It is beautiful and terrible and blinding and you will never understand the trick of it (the end of "A little like light")

She uses italicized sections to indicate juxtaposition or an alternative viewpoint/voice (almost in a Gollum/Smeagol way at times). Here's an example

A Bob Lomax flirts with Patty because he feels sorry for her, although neither of them will take it any further and that won't be the only bottle that Patty empties this afternoon
The James Bridge air was doubly unsettled, wicked with sand and the twist of invisible insults inflicted and received, the raw balance of hypocrisies, the jar and slide of halted, permitted, invited, avoided and frustrated sex. A fraction of the grit in your teeth would always be bitter with sex
And I do want to be wrong about this. I would love God to be here with with His every intervention plain ("Elsewhere", p.131-2).

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