There is so much joy and enthusiasm coming from the lands of the Celts lately. Everyone is lifting a pint of Guinness to “The Full Monty,” and “Waking Ned Devine,” while dancers high step it to lively Irish music. Everything is joyous and happy. Where’s the despair? Where’s the grief? Where’s the volatility? It’s found in A.L. Kennedy’s new novel, “Original Bliss.”
A.L. Kennedy has come from high literary status in Scotland, crossed the Atlantic, and now has made an immediate splash with a tight beautiful story of passion and pornography. Not yet regular fare coming from the Great Isle, but great it is.
Helen Brindle is lost. She can’t find what it is she is looking for. She hasn’t been able to find God. She hasn’t been able to find love. She can’t find it within her home. She’s with Mr. Brindle, a violent, deadly, abusive man. She’s tormented by this man, coupled with doubt, insomnia and emotional frustration. She’s reaching out trying to find her way out.
Meet Edward Gluck, a genius. He’s a self-posessed psych guru with a rich appetite for pornography. This is the story of their courtship, awkward, odd, delicately vexing, excruciatingly difficult, with Mr. Brindle always lurking in emotional shadows.
The characters are fleshed out of the shadows with precise words. They come out of the pages right before us as the powers of nature run their course through the coarse descriptions, the difficult situations, the subject matter.
It is the story of isolation and A.L. Kennedy has written it with economy and brilliance. It is not very often one can find a book about abuse and pornography that is beautiful. And that is what “Original Bliss” is. As the characters reach for something to make them whole, the whole of the book is an aching story, brilliant and dazzling.
Named by Granta as one of the twenty Best Young British Novelists, A.L. Kennedy is ready for America. With the publication of two novels and two collections of short stories already in Britain, it is about time she’s made her way to America. She’s private and doesn’t like celebrity. That’s okay. “Original Bliss” is a private story, brilliantly told, and the strength of her writing alone will be celebrated for quite some time to come.