V CONTEMPORARY FICTION
Everything You Need A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape £16.99) Everyone has a near-death experi- ence they can retell. How far you may have gone to the verge of a full-blown croaking is entirely up for speculation. 'Quite often you're i unaware that you're not well and that’s the case with the ones I have had,’ recalls A.L. Kennedy of her own dices with death. ‘A horse trod on my head when I was a child and l was going in and out of consciousness so much that I wasn't really aware of what was happening.’
Death and those skirting with its dark fringes are everywhere in Kennedy's third novel Everything You Need. Right at the beginning, central character, and novelist, Nathan Staples is contemplating his miserably lonesome life and there follows a vivid description of his attempts to rid himself of this world. Death is tough. But life and its traumas make ending it all appear positively attractive.
Staples has effectively abandoned life, having been separated from his wife and daughter for years to live
Deadly serious: A.L. Kennedy
on an island whose novelty is being inhabited solely by writers. His daughter Mary, meanwhile, has been raised by her two gay uncles, blissfully unaware that Nathan is hatching a plan to lure her to his new homeland. What follows is a complex and compelling analysis of love, loss, pain and the emergence of emotions that would probably be better remaining under the surface. Everything You Need is Kennedy's follow-up to So I Am Glad, though it may benefit from closer comparison to her last novella Original Bliss with its motifs of torture, writing and the link between the two. She has already been laden with prizes aplenty with the Somerset Maugham Award and the Saltire Scottish Book Of The Year trophy having made their way to her
towards has finally come together. There are passages within this novel that is hard to imagine being matched by her modern fiction contemporaries. Of course, within 550 plus pages of text, there are sure to be less than startling sections but these tend to be the limbering up before the intensity of the game truly begins.
50, after the battle you would think a break would be in order. A literary editor’s dream of Kennedy and bullfighting put paid to that as she has agreed to write an essay on Spain's most notable and notorious recreation. ’You have to go through a lot of gore and horror before you get to one that you could call beautiful.’ If her writing is inspired so much by death and dying, let us pray that the stench never leaves her
But, the feeling exists that she has stumbled upon her big moment when everything she has been working
BEAT BIOGRAPHY This Is The Beat Generation
= James Campbell (Secker & Warburg £16.99)****
nostrils. (Brian Donaldson)
Drugs, murder, sex, petty larceny, travel, lunacy, art. With such source material riches to be plundered, it might be argued that Campbell could hardly fail to produce a compelling book, but that w0uld undervalue the author’s remarkable achievement.
The key to the book’s success lies in Campbell's attitude to his subjects. Though clearly an admirer of Burroughs, Kerouac and Ginsberg, he's also qwck to highlight their shortcomings, whether as writers or individuals. Kerouac in particular gets it deservedly in the neck for his unfinished homage to Melwlle, The Sea Is My Brother, but none of the literary hepcats escape entirely unscathed. Burroughs is mocked for his self—conscious self-mutilation, and even Ginsberg’s tormented sexuality is presented as little more than affected indulgence.
Writing the story of a collection of
I Everything You Need is published on Thu 3 Jun. On Bill/fighting will be published in October on Yellow Jersey
indiViduals is always gomg to present problems: where to begin, what to include, how to cut between the various characters while maintaining narrative cohesion, Campbell avoids all possible pitfalls With consummate storytelling skill and technical ability, but the real masterstroke comes with his choice of Jumping off point.
Lucien Carr was liVing an outrageous libertine existence when he met the three Beat godfathers and introduced them to each other in New York, 1944. That in itself would’ve made him an interesting figure, but Carr obligingly stabbed his former scoutmaster ancl hopelessly besotted suitor, and then enlisted Kerouac's help to dispose of the murder
weapon. This is the kind of scenario of 3
which authors dream, but Campbell deserves credit for exploning it in such immediately gripping fashion.
, Putting debut novelists under the
microscope. This issue: Frank Tallis Who he? Frank Tallis spent his early career in the music industry hanging out with Leo Sayer's bodyguards and fading Swedish pop stars before releasing a series of less than successful singles with Essex combo Candu. This led him to seek spiritual fulfilment via a now discredited Indian guru and then to study psychology. In 1994, he was given a post at the Chelsea and Westminster HOSpital, developing a therapy programme to modify high—risk sexual activity. He has set up a charity to help Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferers and their families.
His debut It’s called Killing Time and centres around Tom, a brilliant mathematician, intellectual snob and social inadequate. His girlfriend Anna has gone AWOL but his mind is more on theories of evolution, London, scientific papers from the 18003, Anna’s sexual past, his freelance work on very dodgy software and his attempts to construct a perfectly 5 detailed 19th century camera.
Basically... Basically, it’s a darkly irreverent thriller and a dazzling exploration of science, love and madness. It even has that rare thing these days, chapter headings — such as ’Electrical Disruption Of Temporal Flow,’ ’Sex and Character’ and 'The Schwenck Problem.’
First line test "’Still not heard anything?” "No. I haven't heard anything.” Dave begins to shake his head. “I don’t know. it’s not like her at all. Maybe you should call the police.” I l am able to maintain my composure.’
In the mix Ian McEwan rewritten by Robert Harris.
Back chat Comic Rob Newman believes it is a ’a funny and original novel but its intelligence is much warmer than the cold genius of its central character.’ Fictional peer Martyn Bedford sees it thus: ’Maths + Science x Sex + Violence : i seriously funny novel.’ (Brian Donalds0n)
I Killing Time is published by Hamish Hamilton on Thu 27 May at £9.99.
27 May—TO Jun 1999 THE usrss