AL Kennedy - On Writing (4 stars)

AL Kennedy - On Writing

‘There is more than one way to burn a book’, AL Kennedy tells us as she discusses censorship and suppression of art. This book is political, and not the technical examination of writing one might expect. On Writing is a collection in three parts: ‘the Blog’, ‘the Essays’ and a transcription of Kennedy’s one-person show Words.

‘The Blog’ is a riot of writerly insecurities composed with an urgency of thought. Not many writers can reasonably sell their in-between scribbles were it not for cult infatuation. Here, Kennedy sells them a second time. ‘The Blog’ is anxious and often hilarious. Laid bare is the mind of someone who manages a fear of flying by a process of statistical mitigation – who dies both in an air disaster and on their birthday?

‘The Essays’ are less hyperactive than ‘the Blog’ and are more profound for it. Kennedy holds up formative experiences of her own against poignant historic and contemporary examples of injustice. As she dismantles the mechanics of oppression, the importance of art becomes visible. The portrait of poet Talha Ahsan’s captivity without trial awaiting extradition from the UK to the US resonates in a time when society’s preoccupation is austerity. Or there is Avraham Koplowicz, the child poet of the Jewish ghetto at Lodz, for whom Kennedy writes: ‘ … to understand many deaths we have to understand one, the absence of one life.’

The transcription of Words in the final pages is superfluous but does not constitute a blemish.

Timely in publication, On Writing is wit, sadness, and aphorism for the writer, reader, and human alike.

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