What a treat, twelve stories about love by the inimitable AL Kennedy. Love: looking for it, losing it, exploring what love is. Instead of describing the stories, I want to celebrate her writing. The way she tells us so much in just one or two sentences.
‘Late in Life’ features an older couple waiting. They are waiting in a queue at the building society, waiting for him to pay off her mortgage, in a coming-together of two lives. She provocatively eats a fig, being sexy for him “to pass the time.” Despite his hatred of public show, he watches her, “he is now-and-then watching.” He gives her “the quiet rise of what would be a smile if he allowed it. She knows this because she knows him and his habits and the way the colour in his eyes can deepen when he’s glad, can be nearly purple with feeling glad when nothing else about him shows a heat of any kind.”
In ‘The Practice of Mercy’, Dorothy is lost, alone and approaching old age and contemplating her relationship. “She realised once more, kept realising, as if the information wouldn’t stick, realised again how likely it was that someone you’d given the opening of leaving, someone you’d said was free to go, that someone might not discover a way to come back.”
‘All the Rage’ is set on a train platform. A couple are delayed, travelling home from Wales, stuck waiting for a train that never comes. Kennedy tells us everything about their relationship by describing their suitcase. “Inside it, their belongings didn’t mix – his shirts and underpants in a tangle, Pauline’s laundry compressed into subsidiary containments. They had separate sponge bags too. Got to keep those toothbrushes apart.”
Simon, the narrator of ‘Run Catch Run’, considers his unnamed dog, he is at once a child teaching his puppy and also an adult with a mature awareness of inevitability. “His dad had suggested she could be called Pat, which was a joke: Pat the dog. Simon didn’t want to make his dog a joke.”
She shows us so much, in so few sentences.
Read my review of AL Kennedy’s Serious Sweet.
‘All the Rage’ by AL Kennedy [UK: Jonathan Cape] Buy now
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