Indelible Acts: Stories

by a.L. Kennedy
ISBN: 1400040558

Post Your Opinion
A Review of: Indelible Acts: Stories
by Heather Birrell

"You know us? People like us? We're touch positive. You press against us, even hit us, and we lean in to feel it more. We like touching. We're not ourselves without it." This yearning, this absolute and very physical need for what may, eventually, harm them the most is shared by all of the characters in Kennedy's fourth collection of stories, Indelible Acts. The acts of the title are mostly erotic awakenings, "the dumbfoundedness, the silly, hot pauses of intention" that attraction and infatuation precipitate. Kennedy is a master of the closed, charged spaces of the illicit (extra-marital affairs, closeted desires) and powerful, often unforeseen circumstance (a sledding boy's pleased realization of his "madasfuck" nature, an estranged couple's loaded, miserable gaze in the midst of a funeral). In "An Immaculate Man" the protagonist, Howie, is sent into an emotional and sexual tailspin when a male co-worker bear hugs him violently from behind as he stands mid-piss at the urinal, then spends the rest of the story desperately devising ways to get close, really close to the offender. Kennedy's lovers represent bad habits, addictions impossible to shake, a shared knowledge of entrapment-both disease and cure.
But if Kennedy understands her characters' obsession with erotic touch, the feverishness it brings to even the most everyday objects and inconveniences, she also recognizes how often it is trumped by thought: "There was a sense of attention lying in your hands, maybe in your prick, but truly you were in your head, that was where you lived." Indeed, it is the scurrying, relentless soundtrack of the brain that spawns the gripping dialogue and italicized thought passages through which her narrators reveal all of their grudges, misgivings, intimate tics and romantic signals. These are stories that excel at showcasing the tiny conversational hinges that often determine the course of human relationships.
Still, there were moments in this collection when I wished Kennedy hadn't skimmed quite so blithely over specific histories, as in this passage, which I found convoluted and in the end, empty of sense: "But then a little jab would meet a jab and a cut would meet a cut and we'd apologise and there would be tenderness, but the kind you only feel when there's a bruise." But this is a small cavil with a collection that, on the whole, yields not only sensuous prose, but fresh, often poetic insights. In "A Little Like Light" a janitor trounced by an unconsummated love opines that "The best love is a little like light () It will move from somewhere to nowhere and back again and it will make you lost. It is beautiful and terrible and blinding and you will never understand the trick of it."
If this all sounds overly visceral and relentless, well it is, just like the worst kind of heartbreak, so it comes as a strange, near implausible (yet no less welcome) release when Kennedy offers up some respite in the final story of the collection. In "How To Find Your Way in the Woods", two lovers reunite after a ten-year hiatus, and not only find their way through unfamiliar woods, but also stumble upon a rough hewn redemption, and the collection closes with "the best kind of wait between them and set to break."

Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us