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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Everything You Need (1999) by A.L. Kennedy


Book Review
Everything You Need (1999)
by A.L. Kennedy

  A.L. Kennedy (female) is another writer from the explosion of Scottish literature, or at least, the international audience for Scottish literature.   It seems to me that Scotland was a close-in beneficiary of the movement to embrace "post-colonial" literature.  It also benefited from being the culture nearest to English/American audiences: foreign, but not too foreign.  For the writers who eschewed titles in Scottish dialect, the difference can seem negligible.

  Everything You Need is largely set on Foal Island, a bleak location with a dark history, but located off the coast of Wales, not Scotland.   Nathan Staples has taken up semi-permanent residence at a writers fellowship, where he muses on his failures and generally mucks about.  Staples is what you call a "commercially successful" writer- descriptions of his work  make him sound vaguely Stephen Kingish, or to find a more Scottish example, Iain Banks.   His life is thrown into disorder when the daughter who was taken from him, and in fact does not know of his existence.

 It's all very sharply observed, and holds a particular appeal for anyone with pretensions of being a "writer."  On the other hand, it's 500 plus pages of a tirelessly self involved writer locked largely inside his head.  There is some startling incident to liven up the melancholy plot, and the character of his long-time publisher introduces an element of darkness deeper than the darkness implicit in the idea of a commercially successful writer mentoring the daughter who doesn't know he is her father, but everything stays largely predictable. 

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