Sunday, March 25, 2007

150 revisions

Geraldine Bedell interviews A. L. Kennedy at the Guardian. It's a hilariously funny interview, in a bleak way (I identify with A. L. Kennedy!); I am ashamed to think that I've only read one book of hers, I must read more this summer. She is such a good writer....

Here are some of the best parts of the piece (what I like is the way that she's still so strongly in control of her own voice, even once it's down on the page--the interviewer must have been good, too--but often you see people's words put down and their own self-mocking ironies have just become pompous in the transcription, here it remains very funny--funny because truthful...):

It's tempting to think that AL Kennedy might be playing up her misery, cultivating the bleakness that is often said to characterise her fiction. There is an unflinching, exposed quality to her work: Day is about RAF bombing raids and requires the reader to enter the head of a man who is mentally disintegrating. She is sensitive to absurdity, to the imminence of what she calls 'the pantomime surprise of death'.

She vigorously denies courting unhappiness, claiming to think it's wholly unnecessary to successful fiction. She'd rather have joy, but it's simply not available. 'I have sex about once every five years. I've lived alone since I was 17. I am slightly tired. My life is not comfortable to me. But I am philosophical. It's just the way things have worked out.'

What would make her comfortable? 'Occasional company,' she says. I am starting to find this self-pity slightly comical, so I say: 'I bet you've got a secret husband at home.' Perhaps she has too, because she answers: 'Yeah, I killed him and ate him.' She would like, she says, 'just to have people to talk to who you can actually talk to, which is quite rare'.


For all the craft, the revisions, the foraging for the ideal phrase, AL Kennedy manages to be pretty prolific: she is 41, and Day is her fifth novel. There have been four volumes of short stories (she's working on a fifth right now) plus eight or nine drama scripts, a couple of works of non-fiction, regular journalism and, now, the stand-up. 'If you're quite a fast cook, you don't have children, you don't have pets and you've got no one to talk to, what else are you going to do?' she asks. 'I've got vast amounts of time to occupy.'

No comments:

Post a Comment