Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307273543, 224pp.
Publication Date: April 6, 2010
Twice selected for Granta’s list of Best Young British Novelists, winner of the 2007 Costa Book Award for her acclaimed novel Day (“Day is a novel of extraordinary complexity”—The New York Review of Books), which was also chosen as one of New York magazine’s top ten books of the year—the internationally revered A. L. Kennedy returns with a story collection whose glorious wit and vitality make this a not-to-be-missed addition to the canon of one of our most formidable young writers.
No one captures the spirit of our times like A. L. Kennedy, with her dark humor, poignant hopefulness, and brilliant evocation of contemporary social and spiritual malaise. In the title story, a man abandons his indifferent wife and wanders into a small-town movie theater where he finds himself just as invisible as he was at home. In the masterfully comic “Saturday Teatime,” a woman trying to relax in a flotation tank is hijacked by memories of her past. In “Whole Family with Young Children Devastated,” a woman, inadvertently drawn into a stranger’s marital dysfunction, meditates on the failings of modern life as seen through late-night television and early-morning walks.
Powerful and funny, intimate and profound, the stories in What Becomes are further proof that Kennedy is one of the most dazzling and inventive writers of her generation.
“Marvelous. . . . Kennedy is a force of nature. . . . Everything she touches turns to art, and here, she continues to impress with her psychological fearlessness and breathtaking affection for language.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Beautifully wrought. . . . Every story in What Becomes is a stand-alone gem, presented with a sensibility that goes to Kennedy’s Glasgow roots. She’s a writer’s writer, and deserves to be a reader’s read.” —The Denver Post
“There’s a perpetual sense of danger in [Kennedy’s] fiction, which is partly why it’s so thrilling to read.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Funny, angry, brilliant. . . . These are wonderfully textured pieces, varying from sentence to sentence, mood to mood, committed to capturing the precariousness and unsteadiness of individual mental landscapes.” —The Guardian (London)
“The hardest thing about the advent of a new collection of stories by A. L. Kennedy . . . is the search for synonyms for ‘brilliant.’ Her uncanny dialogue is as note-perfect as J. D. Salinger’s, her vision as astutely bleak as Alice Munro’s, and her ability to summon up a society in a few strokes rivals William Trevor’s.” —The Spectator
“Like a mirror reflecting our cracked souls. . . . A. L. Kennedy is painfully detailed about our human flaws and describes them so realistically, the reader dives into each sentence.” —Associated Press
“Kennedy displays a biting lyricism that reduces Fitzgerald to nostalgia.” —The Boston Globe
“[Kennedy] is rightly viewed as one of the most brilliant and eccentric writers of her generation. . . . Dazzling.” —The Times (London)
“Nothing shines light on the darkest corners of human existence like icy British irony.” —Los Angeles Times
“A. L. Kennedy is one of nature’s Eeyores. . . . Like Eeyore, she’s a born comic whose shtick is never to crack a smile once she has the room cracking up. These stories are peppered with precisely the sort of deadpan humor we resort to in extremis.” —The Independent (London)
“Kennedy . . . inhabit[s] her characters so fully that the reader feels the keenness of each new rejection. . . . A first-rate collection.” —The Telegraph (London)
“Arresting. . . . A writer who unsettles more often than she soothes, Kennedy ensures that nothing as longed for as simple happiness be taken for granted.” —The Toronto Star
“Is it possible to be too good? In Kennedy’s case, that’s a very strong possibility. . . . Every story [in What Becomes] is powerful, brilliantly written, wise and utterly unique. Perhaps more significantly, each story feels true, and mercilessly human. . . . [She] writes with a sharp, angular, incisive quality, a prose that looks direct and straightforward on the surface, only to wound with its undertones and subtleties.” —The Edmonton Journal
“[Kennedy is an] experienced and confident writer who is not afraid to experiment, with language, voice, page layout. . . . These are the best kind of short stories, ones which make you half-smile as they cause you exquisite pain.” —The Short Review
“What Becomes is a tribute to the adventure of thought, in star-quality, unforgettable language.” —The Post and Courier
“Deeply moving. . . . Kennedy knows how to write pain in all its stark detail, while managing to gently highlight the humor in the tragic reality of life.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)