It's possibly ungallant to point out that it's over a decade since publishers Polygon brought out a slim volume of short stories 'Night Geometry and the Garscaden Trains'. Its young author was A. L. Kennedy, in whose company Romona Cavall of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation seemed a wee thing out of her depth the evening she introduced Kennedy to the ScottishPower Studio Theatre audience.
Kennedy read from and
talked about her most recent novel 'Day', centred on the experiences of one
Alfie Day and his fellow members of a British bomber crew during, and in Day's
case after, the Second World War. It's a meticulously researched piece of work,
its themes are ones which obviously concern the author deeply.
The waste of war is,
of course, a topic which authors other than Kennedy have meditated on
profoundly, but her concern with the awesome uniqueness of lives,
the limitless possibilities of human response and ways in which any form of organisation
perforce restricts the potential of those who are part of it, is (of course)
Kennedy's motley crew of fly boys may
appear to, and on occasion do, act callously, but never lose that uniqueness which
makes them human, thus capable of error or stupidity. Her characters are also
humans in a technologically created landscape; their embodied actions in part
reactions governed by the machines they use and fly in.
As part of her
research, Kennedy visited one of the few surviving Lancaster bombers and sat in
the tail-gun position occupied by her central character. Her own enthusiasm for
this fine example of British engineering was palpable, communicating something
of how aircrews might have felt about the machines in which they flew and the
technology of which was their only protection against enemy and elements.
'Day' is, by any standard, a remarkable
achievement and Kennedy remains one of Scotland's most remarkable contemporary
writers. One now has a sense of someone writing toward the peak of their craft,
from whom the best may yet be expected and who is certainly bidding fair to
become one of her country's national treasures.
Time: 8pm, 20 August
Copyright Bill Dunlop 2007. Published on EdinburghGuide.com August 2007