All the Rage

A. L. Kennedy, Author
A.L. Kennedy. Little A/New Harvest, $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-544-30704-9
Reviewed on: 04/07/2014
Release date: 04/29/2014
With her latest collection, Kennedy (The Blue Book) delivers 12 galvanizing, elliptical tales about people caught up in the "fury of needing." In "The Practice of Mercy," a woman remembers a high school science class in which adding potassium to water created a "tiny blur of lilac flames, too angry to sink"; she is warmed by "the idea that every human body hid a pastel shade of outrage no one should view without safety glasses." The other stories are similarly colored by shades of anger and its "most usual precursors": fear and pain. They unsettle with their arresting phrases (a young boy proud of his head injury "holds it like a smile poured in under his hair"), sly evasions, and gradual revelations. In "Baby Blue," a woman mistakenly wanders into a sex-shop and browses contraptions "with which to astonish [her] privacy." The farcical scenario elicits a devastating confession about missing her lover's "sweet and voluntary touch." In the magnificent and often acerbically funny, title story, a philandering journalist waits with his contemptuous wife "on a platform which wasn't their platform at a station they shouldn't have reached." Recalling an intense affair with a young woman of "strange purity," he is drawn to the annihilating power of the trains speeding by "like a spasm of rage." Kennedy's stories roll through with equal force. Agent: GrĂ¡inne Fox, Fletcher & Company. (Apr.)
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