Clive Jordan (review date 2 July 1971)
SOURCE: Jordan, Clive. “Dislocations.” New Statesman and Society 82 (2 July 1971): 24.
[In the following excerpt, Jordan provides a favorable review of An Advent Calendar.]
An Advent Calendar provides a slight but raffishly entertaining excursion to the rundown territory Shena Mackay has staked out as her own. Here again, observed rather less cruelly than before, is the quagmire of a ghastly urban sub-culture. ‘Marguerite lay in bed thinking of the long road of days that led to a goat's dripping beard in East Finchley.’ However improbable, the logic of the road of days is remorseless. Here it brings an impoverished young family to spend the pre-Christmas period with a decrepit uncle, the goat's owner. The resultant complexities include the wife's affair with the goat's vet, and the seduction of a dreadful 15-year-old schoolgirl by a middle-aged poet. I particularly admire the way Shena Mackay makes it appear that both people and things have been formed from the same messy organic substance. The ‘wild white drowned hair of the spaghetti’ is not too fanciful when we already know that the meat sauce contains a human finger.