BOOK REVIEW / Spaces in between: 'Now That You're Back' - A L Kennedy: Cape, 8.99 pounds
winning Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains and her fine novel Looking for the Possible Dance. Here she writes as before of dislocation, the empty spaces between people, the quenching of aspiration and the fearful logic of deranged minds. Her vision is bleak but stoic; she keeps a cool distance from her characters, overseeing them with a sardonic eye.
Two-thirds of this book, however, suffers from such an excess of detachment that it is impossible to engage with the inconsequential meanderings of these maimed lives. You just don't care, and are minded to give up. Then, in the last five stories, Kennedy displays her gift for dialogue and her versatility. There is a wildly funny and convincing portrait of a homely American serial killer, a heart-rending afternoon in the life of a brain-damaged boy, and (for once) a tender love affair, whose happiness outweighs its incongruities. She calls up all the colour and quirkiness of lived experience; backgrounds, urban or rural, are vividly conjured in a few laconic lines.
While there is no excess, at any time, the sparse elegance of Kennedy's prose is occasionally illumined by images of startling wit and lyricism: a woman describes her sense of joy as 'a little golden frog, dancing under my heart'; a pair of high heels are 'belligerently delicate, a wonderful little proof that walking and pavements need no longer be a part of life'.
This uneven collection also contains two woefully ponderous and unfunny satirical pieces which are at odds with the rest and an embarrassment to read. Worse still, Cape have chosen to print a coy little blue card bearing an extract from one of them as a sort of 'gift' with the book. This kind of thing can put people off and that would be a big pity, for no one should miss the last few stories, and most especially the title one, 'Now That You're Back'; here is a work of art.
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Liam Gallagher slams Daft Punk: 'I could have written Get Lucky in an hour'
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
After 61 films, including The Hangover Part III, Heather Graham admits she still likes to boogie
Film review: The Hangover Part III - it tries hard to be funny but fails to raise a solitary guffaw despite Zach Galifianakis' borderline sociopath Alan
- 1 Liam Gallagher slams Daft Punk: 'I could have written Get Lucky in an hour'
- 2 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 3 'Something passed underneath us, quite close': Airbus A320 has close encounter with UFO
- 4 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
- 5 Two bailed after arrest over Woolwich attack Twitter comments
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.