Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reading: A.L. Kennedy & Roddy Doyle

When you have two readers going up at one time, it's best to have contrast. And, at first glance, this wouldn't be it. You have two prize-winning authors from the British colonies (or post-British colonies, if you prefer; Scotland and Ireland, respectively), and two authors with a voluminous body of work between them. Roddy Doyle is probably better known, of course, from The Committments , of novel and film fame, and the Booker-winning Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. But, for my money, it's A.L. Kennedy who comes out all bangers and mash.

Both authors offered humorous readings, but their delivery was a contrast in style. Kennedy, while subdued, was filled with droll, deadpan humor, much of it rolling just under your consciousness. Her work, as well, has more subtlety about it, the humor tempered by darkness. Doyle, on the other hand, brings his voice to the forefront, which suits his own work: brash, brassy, and hilariously profane. And while both authors captured dialogue nimbly -- indeed, both authors read dialogue heavy sections from their current works (Day and The Deportees, respectively) -- Kennedy captures the hesitations, the pauses and hiccups, that Doyle's head-on language has no time for.

Part of it may be the formal structure of Doyle's work: he admitted that he wrote "Guess Who's Coming For Dinner," the story from which he read, in 800-word chunks which were published serially. Doyle's voice floored the gas from go and rarely let up. And while the story itself -- an Irish retelling of the Sidney Poitier movie of the same name -- Kennedy's quiet, intense examination of a damaged RAF pilot sticks more in my consciousness. Still, you can't blame him for being popular; Doyle's line at the signing table drew much more interest than Kennedy's. It reminded me of the Edward Jones/Edwidge Danticat/Zakes Mda reading last fall. Danticat's fans lined up around the Free Library, while Jones and Mda had plenty of time to twiddle their thumbs.

Sure, I'd go out for drinks with Doyle, but I'll talk mostly to the funny Scottish lady.

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