Updated: 8/16/15; 18:43:48

pedantic nuthatch
Life in a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. B.M.A.T.C., and Etruscan typewriter erasers. Blogged by David Gorsline.

Sunday, 11 April 2004

Indelible Acts, stories by A. L. Kennedy

There was, as Margie might say, no end to the strange things that people would do to get happy.

I've been researching the points of Calvinist theology recently. With his emphasis on original sin and systemic depravity, John Calvin might read from A. L. Kennedy's collection of crunchy, bitter-sharp stories and say, "This is the way to write a love story."

One of the strongest stories, "A Little Like Light," is told by a school janitor indirectly to his son as he engages in an "unconcluded" love affair with a substitute teacher. He says, "This is love. This terrible feeling. This knowing I would rather see her than be content."

For the Glaswegian Kennedy, lovers dissociate into so many responsive body parts; they devolve into jealousies of things, as in the title story. The pain of love and of life can only be escaped through self-mutilation, as in "Touch Positive," the tale of a man kicked out of his apartment by his girlfriend, and now on a feckless search for boxes to pack up his things:

For now, though, finding painkillers was his only priority, so he sloped into the chemist and bought his favorite effervescent type. The checkout girl... stared at him when he broke into the package, snapped a tablet in two and then popped half into his mouth. True to form, it swelled bitterly, tickled and started to do its noble work. No more headache, very soon.

"You're not meant to take them like that."

He would, has his mouth not been filling with bile-flavored, blessedly anaesthetising foam, have answered that he was especially meant to take them like that, because that was the way they worked best.

Kennedy skillfully captures the exquisite torture that is to be alive today.

posted: 7:55:20 PM  

Saint-Ex's biographer Stacy Schiff closes the book on his story.

posted: 3:34:07 PM  

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