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Booker Prize for Fiction > 2016 Longlist: Serious Sweet

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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Jul 27, 2016 04:51AM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1859 comments Mod
Serious Sweet, by A.L. Kennedy

Serious Sweet

UK Publication Date: May 19, 2016
US Publication Date: October 18, 2016
528 pp

A good man in a bad world, Jon Sigurdsson is 59 and divorced: a senior civil servant in Westminster who hates many of his colleagues and loathes his work for a government engaged in unmentionable acts. A man of conscience.

Meg Williams is ‘a bankrupt accountant – two words you don’t want in the same sentence, or anywhere near your CV’. She’s 45 and shakily sober, living on Telegraph Hill, where she can see London unfurl below her. Somewhere out there is safety.

Somewhere out there is Jon, pinballing around the city with a mobile phone and a letter-writing habit he can’t break. He’s a man on the brink, leaking government secrets and affection as he runs for his life.

Set in 2014, this is a novel of our times. Poignant, deeply funny, and beautifully written, Serious Sweet is about two decent, damaged people trying to make moral choices in an immoral world: ready to sacrifice what’s left of themselves for honesty, and for a chance at tenderness. As Jon and Meg navigate the sweet and serious heart of London – passing through 24 hours that will change them both for ever – they tell a very unusual, unbearably moving love story.


message 2: by peg (new)

peg | 151 comments I happened to order this book and HOT MILK about a month ago from the UK after reading about them in the speculation thread. No, I am not that good at forecasting the longlist as I ordered 4 others that didn't make the list.

I decided to read this one first while I am "fresh" and it is around 500 pages. Actually, it reads fairly quickly, especially the first half (or maybe I was just "fresher" then?) I enjoyed the first 3/4 quite a bit as the reader realizes what is going on in the minds of two people and it takes a while to understand what the relationship is between the two.

There are some wonderful descriptive passages, about the city buildings of London and a great one about contemporary hospitals. I don't know if it is just me but I have noticed a lot of authors using the sense of smell in their descriptions lately and could immediately relate to the smell of "cheap coffee".

I was able to devour a couple 100 pages a day until I got to the last 150 pages. Then it seemed to slow down and become quite tedious....almost seemed like the author was trying to make the final act of the story last as long as possible. Also I had a problem with Jon, the main male character. His dithering and procrastination in a certain situation just did not seem possible. I thought Meg was much better drawn, and her thoughts of a recovering alcoholic seemed right on track.

I am using the grading system just announced by the (WO)-man Booker , a group of female bloggers who will be reading and reviewing the long list and here are my results:
Writing Quality 4/5
Originality 4/5
Character Development 2/4
Plot Complexity 3/4
Enjoyment 1/2
For a total of 14/20


message 3: by Lascosas (new)

Lascosas | 456 comments This is my #1. True, the Coetzee won't be available for a few days, but having read the previous Mary/Jesus one, I can't possible imagine ranking it about Serious Sweet.

Five hundred pages of interior monologs from two characters I found very unappealing. I would certainly hope never to meet either one, but by the end of the book I found both so fully realized that I cared deeply about each of them.

A man and a woman. He, Jon, is 59 and a seniorish official at Whitehall. She, Meg, is late 30s (I assume) and works part time for an animal shelter. The author is so self-assured (for very good reasons) that she just plops us into interior monologs of these two with very few sign-posts. We rattle along with these characters in roughly alternating chapters during a single 24 hour time period. Slowly, ever so slowly, we are given tiny facts, or parts of facts that give us an increasingly clear picture of the two characters and what explains their interior terrors. Because it is very clear from the start that these two Londoners have not had happy lives, and are not having a stellar day. To put it mildly.

It is the language that makes this book soar, and reading it after the clunky language of Thien's book makes the wonderful use of language all the more evident. Original use of words, subtle use of humor, a few unexpected words in the middle of a rant. One marvelous example of the flexibility of the English language after another.

"I don't want or intend... And if you think I do intend...My dick intends, but it's a dick, please can't we ignore it?
Fucksake, how can a man be afraid of his, of his...
I'm not afraid of my penis, of my cock, of my dick, of my fucking Neanderthal dick.
I am not afraid of it.
I hate it.
I need it to stop. I need it to leave me be and..."

"You're something that no one should hurt. Like with animals-you're meant to look after them..
When he hears this, Jon is surprised to find that he's not at all unhappy to be classed as an animal."

"He braced himself for her disapproval, but - rather more horribly - she provided none."


message 4: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Interesting! Seen only negative reviews about this otherwise. I like A.L. Kennedy a lot for her non-fiction and comedy; the only fiction of hers I've really connected with, though, was Paradise, a personal favourite. Meg seems to share some characteristics with Hannah, the protagonist of that one, and that's one of the reasons I would like to read this - your positive opinion of the book has only made me want to read it more. Now, if only I get the ARC applied for on Netgalley, or Jonathan Cape stop being so intransigent about the price...


message 5: by Lascosas (last edited Aug 15, 2016 02:50PM) (new)

Lascosas | 456 comments I normally spend my year reading things other than English language contemporary fiction, so the Booker longlist each year is a chance to read authors I would never otherwise encounter. So I will admit that I had never even heard of A.L. Kennedy before reading this book. I had a much easier time with Jon than Meg.


message 6: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Yeah, I doubt she is that well known in the US. It used to be she was just thought of as a Scottish writer, but her Guardian columns later made her known to a larger UK audience.


MisterHobgoblin I have always found Alison Kennedy's books a bit dull, which is a bit of a shame because in real life she is a bit of a live wire with a mordantly dry wit. So I approached Serious Sweet, courtesy of its Booker longlisting, with a bit of trepidation.

I needn't have worried.

Perhaps it is the basic premise - a middle ranking civil servant working in Tothill Street finds himself out of favour at work and bored by his lonely home life. I was that person, right down to working in Tothill Street, way back 15 years ago. Or perhaps it is the sardonic take on London life in the 21st Century. But whatever it was, I couldn't get enough of Jon Sigurdsson. Meg Williams, on the other hand, as a clerical worker in an animal shelter felt less immediately accessible.

The novel itself is a bit like Ulysses. Jon and Meg wander around London over a 24 hour period with a vague intention of meeting up but being waylaid by various people. Meg spends time in hospital, almost as a parallel to Joyce's scene in the maternity hospital. And whilst there is a love story between the two of them, what you really have is an extended study of two characters, set against a wider study of contemporary London (and the wider nation and its government). Neither Jon nor Meg is terribly likeable - Jon is pompous and Meg is a whinger - but neither is either of them contemptible. They are complex, flawed characters who are unhappy with life; the reader comes to want them to have a chance of happiness even if it is not going to be in the terms of a Hollywood Rom Com.

The writing really is stellar in terms of creating a sense of person and a sense of place. Kennedy uses a device of third person narrative blended with italicised first person stream of consciousness from both Jon and Meg's perspective. There are also little vignettes dropped in of everyday city life - life in cafes, on the streets , in parks or on the Tube. This scene changing offer welcome relief from what might otherwise have felt too claustrophobic. It also offers enough hooks that anyone who has lived in London will recognise details. Kennedy has a way of making everyday details seem significant, and in such a way that the reader gets an "a-ha" moment on recognising each of those details.

The novel is long; there's no getting away from that. And at times, the lack of plot driven action can feel a bit like meandering (which is, of course, what Jon and Meg are doing). There are diversions into politics, philosophy and personal history. There is a wealth of words dedicated to the gap between the personal and the public self. And at times, it can feel slow. But, again like Ulysses, if parts of the text can feel like a bit of a slog, the impression at the end is one of heartfelt beauty and grace. For the reader, it comes together as a complete experience that handsomely repays the effort it took to get there.

Over the passage of time, the memory of some novels grow and others recede. I suspect this one is a grower.

****0


message 8: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments MHG, that's by far the most informative review of this I've seen so far. I'm growing increasingly confident I'll like this.
(And I did like A Cup of Rage a lot, though in 5 books of hers I've read, I've never found ALK's style as dense and word-drunk as Nasser's.)


MisterHobgoblin Antonomasia wrote: "MHG, that's by far the most informative review of this I've seen so far. "
Thanks Antonomasia. I should say that I spent the first 50 pages at least reading this in a Dundonian accent. It helped the bleak humour enormously.


message 10: by Lee (new)

Lee Very good stuff thus far: thoroughly enjoyable style, panoramic, gimlet-eyed etc. Feels like a potential winner, this...must surely make the shortlist.


message 11: by Matthias (new)

Matthias | 52 comments I think this book would make an ideal film script for Woody Allen. I have never enjoyed this kind of self-pitying humor, and for me, inner monologue only works when there is some complex cultural background that provides depth to the per se rather shallow sentences. So I guess there will be many lovers and hates. I am one of the haters.


message 12: by Lascosas (new)

Lascosas | 456 comments I'm one of the people who thinks this is a very successful novel and completely, utterly loath Woody Allen.


message 13: by James (new)

James Pomar | 92 comments I just finished this and I'm a little on the fence about it. I'm a sap for love stories, so this story about two people who were unable to love or be loved or find love finally finding love with each other was really nice.

But I'm not really in love with how the novel was constructed. I don't like how she withholds information, and how when one thing comes out about a character, it's treated as a big reveal with what feels like no prior warning. For instance, Meg (and I'll try to be as careful with spoilers as I can). We see her very early on visiting her gynecologist and it's clear that she's suffered some form of abuse which makes this experience, and the countless other experiences she has like it, incredibly traumatic. But then we find out, oh, Meg is also an alcoholic, and that felt cheap to me. Like Kennedy didn't have the character figured out, and all these other things kept popping up that she decided to add in.

And I really don't want to trash a writer for this kind of stuff. I don't think a successful novelist needs to take flak from me for a work she probably spent something like 5 years on.

So, that being said, I found the story of these two characters moving and sweet, but the novel that contains them sloppy and carelessly constructed.


message 14: by Lee (new)

Lee Tremendous. Sprawling, and meandering, but in an entirely arresting way. By far the most interestingly composed of the longlisted books I've read. My winner thus far.


message 15: by MisterHobgoblin (new)

MisterHobgoblin Lee wrote: "Tremendous. Sprawling, and meandering, but in an entirely arresting way. By far the most interestingly composed of the longlisted books I've read. My winner thus far."
It's heading that way for me too


message 16: by Dan (new)

Dan Hmmm. Lee's and MisterHobgoblin's comments are tipping me towards ordering this now in hardbound rather than waiting to see if it's shortlisted. Since I greatly admire her short stories, you're giving me all of the encouragement that I needed.


message 17: by Lee (new)

Lee Dan: do buy one. If you don't like it, I'll eat my hat. I don't own a hat and have no expectation of having to procure one.


message 18: by Lascosas (new)

Lascosas | 456 comments Though if you look at the various longlists people have put up here, several put it at the bottom. For me, it is #1.


message 19: by Lee (new)

Lee Indeed, Lascosas, and but for Dan mentioning his liking of Kennedy's short fiction I wouldn't dare offer so bold a commendation. It does divide readers, clearly.


message 20: by Dan (new)

Dan Thank you, Lee, Lascosas, and MisterHobglin. The deed has been done, although I'm pessimistic that the Book Depository will manage its delivery before the shortlist announcement.


message 21: by Lee (new)

Lee Don't thank us yet, Dan! :-) But seriously: fine investment, that.

I can only share your experience of Book Depository, and hope it arrives at least a week before the 13th.


message 22: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Misterhobgoblin, we like the same book!!

I really enjoy listening to AL Kennedy at literary festival events and I enjoyed a standup event at the Edinburgh Fringe a few years ago. However, I haven't been terribly enamoured with the fiction that I've tried until now. I would call the writing of Serious Sweet "masterly".

It's taken third place on my shortlist but my top three are pretty much equal and I'd be unhappy if this doesn't make the judges' shortlist.


message 23: by MisterHobgoblin (new)

MisterHobgoblin Ang wrote: "Misterhobgoblin, we like the same book!!"

Oh. My. God.

I guess it had to happen one day... :)


message 24: by Doug (last edited Sep 12, 2016 10:28AM) (new)

Doug Godawful ... it's like some elongated, overextended Mills & Boon romance novel tarted up with literary pretensions ... and pretentious is exactly the word! The basic premise makes absolutely no sense - a milquetoast civil servant takes to charging women to write them syrupy love notes, and a damaged, alcoholic, bankrupt woman PAYS him 120 pounds to send them to her? WHAT? Imagine the film ''You've Got Mail', but instead of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, cast it with two actors devoid of any charm, wit or charisma - say Michael Gambon at his dourest, and perhaps Booker judge Olivia Williams (who I am presuming foisted this mess on her fellow judges) as Meg.

The two then spend 500 pages NOT getting together, with the result being contrivance after contrivance delaying their meet - which includes TWO boring meetings with Jon's boss, and TWO with some bizarre journo called Mixner - which inexplicably leads to Mixner punching Jon in the face - which somehow impels Jon to tell him some longwinded 'scoop' about phone tapping at #10 Downing! None of this makes a lick of sense, neither psychologically nor narratively.

The writing is just plain sloppy, as is the non-existent editing ... for example, p. 379 begins "It is late on a Sunday afternoon at the end of a warm autumn." Not a dozen sentences later we read "... the passengers are wearing coats, scarves, hats -responding to the little shock of winter's first real cold". Huh? By the time we get to the details of Meg's gynecological horror story, and Jon locks himself in the bathroom sobbing, I'd had plenty!

A few years ago, SF Opera did a disastrously boring 5+ hour long production of 'Don Giovanni', and patrons took to making bumper stickers stating 'I survived SF Opera's Don Giovanni'. That's how I feel about actually wading through this interminable dreck to the end. To be fair, Kennedy does show some glimmers of writing talent - but halfway through the only enjoyment I got from this was inventing a drinking game of taking a shot anytime the author indulged in her odd, annoying habit of repeating a word three times - so maybe I was plastered more than not, as she seems to do that about every third page! It is unconscionable that this was nominated for a Booker when I can off the top of my head think of a dozen more worthy nominees ... I may consider suicide if it actually makes the short list!


message 25: by Lee (new)

Lee Entertaining review, Doug.

Quick note on:

"It is late on a Sunday afternoon at the end of a warm autumn." Not a dozen sentences later we read "... the passengers are wearing coats, scarves, hats -responding to the little shock of winter's first real cold".

So the autumn had been warm...but not necessarily that Sunday.


message 26: by Ang (last edited Sep 12, 2016 09:51AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments That's how I read it too, Lee.

Doug, it's an entertaining review, and I understand your point of view even though I disagree.


message 27: by Lee (new)

Lee I think Kennedy takes a huge risk with a style that's easy - too easy - to lampoon.


message 28: by Doug (new)

Doug Nope ... went back and reread p. 379 ... clearly supposed to be the same day - just shoddy writing! And I'd say Barbara Cartland is the more apt literary antecedent ...not, G-d forbid, the talented Ali Smith!


message 29: by Lee (new)

Lee But 'autumn' is obviously not one day...so I don't see the issue. Anyway...


message 30: by Rosario (new)

Rosario | 3 comments Doug wrote: "...and perhaps Booker judge Olivia Williams (who I am presuming foisted this mess on her fellow judges) as Meg"

Why do you think so? (Apologies if it is obvious; I'm not familiar with Olivia Williams)


message 31: by Ang (last edited Sep 14, 2016 03:10AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Yes, Lee is right about the autumn statement. Yes, it's the same day. The autumn has been warm. This is the end of autumn, but starting to get cold.


message 32: by Lee (new)

Lee I think Doug gives good value for his breathless dismantling of Serious Sweet, but I find (and there are a few examples of this this year) such a zealous, enraged dismissal curious (and fascinating). As though certain things were not allowed in fiction, and are to be treated with utter, hyperbolic contempt. I can certainly see why anyone would take against the book, but it's fish in a barrel having a pop at this. It's a bold endeavour, a high-wire job, and it seems a shame when such efforts get mercilessly hacked to pieces.


message 33: by Louise (new)

Louise | 224 comments I'm about 100 pages in (I've had to stop reading it before bed time - I'm just too tired/unfocused! :-) ) and I like it so far, but it's not the kind of book I speed through,


message 34: by MisterHobgoblin (new)

MisterHobgoblin The whole novel is about transition - an unstable, liminal state. The autumn has been warm. Now it is over. People are wearing coats and scarves, and know that they will continue to do so for a long while. The donning of winter gear is significant when you work in London.


message 35: by Doug (last edited Sep 14, 2016 12:52AM) (new)

Doug OK, LET'S beat the dead horse!! :-) I see Lee's point, since he is interpreting the initial sentence to mean "It is late on a Saturday afternoon at the end of WHAT UP TILL NOW HAS BEEN a warm autumn" (Capitals being what is NOT in the sentence - and if it HAD been, I would concede his point!) Pardon the former university professor coming out, but SYNTACTICALLY, the sentence, as written, implies that the day in question is PART OF said late autumn. Therefore, when a few lines later, Kennedy states that it is SIMULTANEOUSLY a 'cold winter' - that is shoddy, sloppy writing, IMHO! But you know what they say about opinions and arseholes ... so there you go! Am very happy for OTHERS that they enjoyed the book - I found it nearly unreadable (heaving bosoms, diseased vaginas, and overactive tear ducts to the forefront) ... and am delighted it is no longer in competition and I never have to think about it again! :-)

PS Booker judge Olivia Williams is actually a fine dramatic actress, but comes off very chilly and distant on screen - so my presumption is that she saw herself in Meg - highly unlikely there will EVER be a film version, thank g-d, so she's outta luck there!


message 36: by Lee (new)

Lee I still stick with my original interpretation, and that a dichotomy is brought into play - warm/cold, as MisterHobgoblin suggests, a stark transition - which of course fits nicely with the themes of the book. But putting all that aside...disappointed it missed out.


message 37: by Doug (new)

Doug I feel your pain Lee! :-)


message 38: by Lee (new)

Lee I'll have to dig into my gran's Cartland pile now to soften the blow...


message 39: by Doug (new)

Doug LOL!! Do that... meanwhile, I am reading Levy's backlist, sending her good vibes! :-)


message 40: by Lee (new)

Lee I'm a big Levy fan - Swimming Home is great but her non-fiction is also tremendous. I'd be delighted to see her win.


message 41: by Susanne (last edited Sep 16, 2016 03:51PM) (new)

Susanne | 55 comments Despite an excruciatingly slow start, I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed bits of this novel. There were some genuinely insightful comments or connections although other moments had me scratching my head. If the author's intention was to highlight both the tenderness and danger that reside in finding love, she succeeds very well while security/safety are important running themes.
I found Meg a more compelling character although Jon was not badly drawn either. In terms of voice, I felt that the author favoured a certain style and sometimes Meg and Jon sounded too similar. I also enjoyed the gaps in the narrative which were filled in dribs and drabs.
But.... godammit this book was an exercise in patience. Although I liked the book overall, I am completely in agreement with Doug's assessment of the language... too many repetitions, too much meandering. The prose in this one is the very definition of overwrought. Sometimes Meg and Jon just didn't talk like real people. So many times, I wanted to scream at the author "We get it already! Move it along!" I mean for a spin doctor, why can't Jon complete a bloody sentence and who relates an anecdote (Meg's operation in the hospital) in the second person? Some (or actually a lot) of editing wouldn't have gone amiss.


message 42: by Susanne (last edited Sep 16, 2016 03:52PM) (new)

Susanne | 55 comments Lee wrote: "I think Doug gives good value for his breathless dismantling of Serious Sweet, but I find (and there are a few examples of this this year) such a zealous, enraged dismissal curious (and fascinating..."
Hi, Lee. I think readers get especially annoyed when a book is especially long; I don't know if others have this expectation, but I feel that when one reads a long novel, it is almost as if there is an unwritten agreement: "I will invest the effort to read your book, but it shouldn't be any longer than it needs to be." I know this might seem a bit esoteric, but I think in some way, readers and writers do make unspoken agreements with each other. In the case of Serious Sweet, perhaps it felt a bit too self-indulgent and that it could have been tightened/shortened in a way that would not have harmed the book or the world it creates in any way but made the experience more pleasurable/less painful for the reader. Perhaps I am just projecting my own impressions upon Doug. No criticism of your point of view (although I find passion in one's opinion about books completely unsurprising)- just an elaboration from someone who has had a few violent thoughts about some of the books on this year's longlist.


message 43: by Doug (last edited Sep 13, 2016 06:19PM) (new)

Doug Thanx for the corroboration, Suzanne - and you are spot on about the length issue. As Neil pointed out in his review, quoting The Guardian, it appears that Kennedy has now reached an exalted position whereby her publisher has ceased to edit her books at all!


message 44: by Ang (last edited Sep 14, 2016 03:00AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Doug, in your beating a dead horse post, I think you used the word late instead of warm. I'm still with Lee, there's nothing wrong with the way Kennedy wrote the sentences surrounding the autumnal weather. The phrase you add is unnecessary, and in my opinion, makes the sentence unwieldy. A warm autumn and a cold day are quite normal where I live! I'd say we had a warm summer this year, but there were certainly some cold days dotted about in there. I see you are from California, so there is probably less seasonal variation.

If this book spanned days or weeks, I might agree with you about the emotion and being unable to finish sentences, etc that you found annoying. However, it is a single day, traumatic for both of them (Meg with unwelcome memories, and Jon with what he is about to do). I didn't understand why Jon kept going to meetings instead of meeting Meg, and I was getting annoyed until I realised what he was up to.

As a general point and not related to anything Doug has said, I heard Kennedy come through in a lot of the humour. I always enjoy listening to her, so that was a benefit to me. It might be interesting to some that I didn't hear the author at all with The Sellout, which is the opposite experience to those with a dissenting view of that book.


message 45: by Doug (new)

Doug I guess Kennedy is not the only one in need of a good copy editor :-) ... it's been changed... I still fail to see how a single day can be BOTH a warm august AND a cold winter on the very same day ... but maybe you Brits have a different climate structure there - or global warming is REALLY getting out of hand :-) :-)


message 46: by Ang (last edited Sep 14, 2016 01:05AM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments We most definitely have a different climate structure than you do!

But I think you are missing the point. It's a cold day at the end of a warm autumn. It's not a day that is both warm and cold (though we do get that here quite often this time of year!).


message 47: by Lee (new)

Lee I will never see the quibbling point that you do, Doug (and every time I re-read the passage in question it reinforces my initial take) and can only assume you're refusing to look at the text AS TEXT. Rather, you seem to have decided it means something it doesn't and, yeah....

"It is late on a Sunday afternoon at the end (it's passed; autumn is gone, and with it comes, yes...) of a warm autumn (and yet: the day itself is, even were it part of said autumn, not synonymous with 'warmth')."


Not a dozen sentences later (but a fair few sentences, right? Enough to distinguish the place in the text, surely) we read "... the passengers are wearing coats, scarves, hats -responding to the little shock of winter's first real cold".

So "late on a Sunday afternoon at the end of a warm autumn" - an autumn which is AT ITS END "...the passengers are wearing coats, scarves, hats -responding to the little shock of winter's first real cold" - winter has announced its arrival with a bit of COLD WEATHER NOW THAT AUTUMN, BE IT WARM, SULTRY, SCORCHING, TEPID OR OTHERWISE has ENDED.

Autumn is not constrained to exist in the Sunday in question; the Sunday in question is the demarcation/departure point from a 'warm autumn' to a 'cold winter'. Nowhere does it say: 'It was a warm Sunday at the end of autumn.'

"I still fail to see how a single day can be BOTH a warm august AND a cold winter on the very same day..." It can't. And at no point is any such suggestion made.

Sorry, dead horse...you had almost expired with a modicum of dignity there.

"But I think you are missing the point. It's a cold day at the end of a warm autumn. It's not a day that is both warm and cold." Spot on.


message 48: by Lee (new)

Lee Susanne wrote: "Lee wrote: "I think Doug gives good value for his breathless dismantling of Serious Sweet, but I find (and there are a few examples of this this year) such a zealous, enraged dismissal curious (and..."

Suzanne: I think all conversations about books are lifeblood and to be welcomed. And I completely understand any reader taking issue with a book deemed 'overlong', as this most probably is by a good 100 pages. But I don't mind that additional length in this case; I totally appreciate that cuts could easily have been made, but I found that such digressive, expansive content led to a more immersive read. Of course, many are going to find such indulgences annoying. There are things about the book I found occasionally troubling: Jon's staccato, ruptured speech patterns were often a bit overdone, for example. But, for me, if you're going to deal in the kind of elliptical self-recriminations that both these characters contend with, and if you're set on a certain type of internal-monologue approach, you have to go all in. Readers will fall by the wayside, but that's the risk. And it was a risk worth taking.

Incidentally, passionate thoughts on books are something I have all the time in the world for, and I have plenty of my own. My curiosity regards passion spent demolishing a text. I could spend hours extolling the virtues of my favourite books; I don't think I could be bothered or inclined to spend too much time enumerating a book's flaws. We all know who the hacks are: A L Kennedy is not one of them. I do find it genuinely fascinating that anyone might seriously consider Serious Sweet 'dreck'. It simply isn't that. The book may fail for any reader, but such an assertion 'doth protest too much, methinks'.


message 49: by Doug (last edited Sep 14, 2016 12:19PM) (new)

Doug Lee wrote: "Susanne wrote: "Lee wrote: "I think Doug gives good value for his breathless dismantling of Serious Sweet, but I find (and there are a few examples of this this year) such a zealous, enraged dismis..."

I think we will have to agree to disagree on this point - and Kennedy in general. I don't think it is really worth either of us spending time on this further (at least I don't intend to!), despite your passionate disclaimer otherwise.

I am not alone in my opinion. however, since this is the lowest rated of any of this year's nominees - only 66% of people 'liked' it and it has a dismal 3.12 rating. I had never even HEARD of Kennedy prior to her nomination, but apparently she is something of a celebrity/pundit on your side of the pond. I checked my local library's catalog, as well as a comprehensive interlibrary loan system, and she is barely represented on either (as opposed to say, Ali Smith or Deborah Levy, who both have rabid followers here). However, if this is representative of her work, I won't be needing any of her backlist!

As with Paul's detestation of 'The Sellout', the 'problem', if there actually is one, may be cultural. Many of the references Kennedy uses mean nothing to a US audience, and I found most of the long, boring sections with Chalice (was that his name? I can't even recall specifics anymore, as mercifully, the book is evaporating from my memory) and Mixner yawn inducing. It WAS fun eviscerating this 'dreck', and enjoyed the sparring on our opinions ... but I'm officially hereby calling for a cease-fire and WON'T read anything more about SS! I simply don't care enough! :-)


message 50: by Lee (new)

Lee I've tried a few Kennedy before this with not massive success, but this one struck a chord. Anyway, it's outta the race now...onward...


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