A. L. Kennedy Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Alison Louise Kennedy is sometimes named as one of the new Scottish Renaissance writers, but she resists definition as a nationalist writer. “We [Scots] have a storytelling tradition which gives us a respect for voice; we have an alcoholic tradition which gives us a respect for confabulation,” Kennedy said at the 2001 Edinburgh Book Festival, discussing as well Scotland’s position as a “non-dominant culture” within the larger dominant British culture, but she added, “Today I would like to be international.” Writing fiction, she believes, is a both an act of faith and an act of connection.

Born in 1965, in Dundee, Scotland, daughter of a psychology professor and a remedial teacher, Kennedy attended Warwick University in England, where she earned a B.A. in drama. She experimented with acting but eventually moved into directing and writing. She has written for television, radio, and the stage and believes the discipline of performance shaped her writing style. Most of her short stories, she told an interviewer, are essentially monologues.

Following university and some nonwriting jobs (such as selling brushes door-to-door), Kennedy returned to Scotland, where she served as a community arts worker and writer-in-residence for Hamilton and East Kilbride Social Work Department and Project Ability, a special-needs arts organization. At the age of twenty-five, in 1991, she published her first short-story collection, Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains. Most of the stories focus on the lives of working-class Scottish women. Reviews were positive: The Times Literary Supplement wrote that Kennedy’s stories “act as a memorial for the silent majority who ‘live their lives in the best way they can and still leave nothing behind,’” while the London Observer praised Kennedy’s writing as “pure, full of tenderness and courage, with a gallows humor.” Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains received the Scottish Arts Council Book Award and the Saltire Best First Book Award, establishing Kennedy as a young writer to watch.

Kennedy followed this collection with a novel, Looking for the Possible Dance, in 1993. Set in decaying urban Scotland, it tells the story of a young woman working in a community center who attempts to bring hope to the people she works with, despite a distinct lack of it in her own life. It was also a critical success, winning Kennedy another Scottish Arts Council Book Award as well as the Somerset Maugham Award. She was named one of the twenty “Best British Young Novelists” by the prestigious literary journal Granta.

During the early 1990’s, Kennedy was active in the Scottish literary scene, working as an editor of Outside Lines magazine. Beginning in 1990, she also edited the annual anthology New Writing Scotland and coedited two anthologies...

(The entire section is 1186 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Eder, Richard. “Defeating Death by Writing About It in the Bullring.” The New York Times, March 30, 2001, p. E40. Discusses Kennedy’s experience writing On Bullfighting.

Knapp, Mona. “World Literature in Review: English.” World Literature Today 4 (Autumn, 1999). Review of Original Bliss.

Nolan, Yvonne. “A Dream Not Her Own.” Publishers Weekly 30 (July 23, 2001). Biographical profile that includes a discussion of Everything You Need.