Jack Ross, ed.: brief 32 (July 2005)
Anne Kennedy. The Time of the Giants. ISBN 1-86940-342-8. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2005. RRP $27.99.
Anne Kennedy: The Time of the Giants (2005)
Anne Kennedy is very good at telling stories, especially odd stories which no-one else would think to tell. It seems very sensible of her to concentrate on this strength in her second book of poems from AUP (hard on the heels of last year’s Montana-award winning Sing-Song). There’s a lot here to like, but I’m afraid I’m still left with certain reservations. For a start, there’s the underlying sense of a message in the narrative itself: Moss, the teenage giantess must be true to herself (which means going off and mating with her own outsized kind), rather than scrunching herself up to appeal to a “small-minded” boyfriend. This seems a little too pat to me: the kind of creaking moral which writers of the fantastic do best to disavow (so much of the effectiveness of the Alice books comes from their refusal to preach, and its cruel parodies of those who do).
Then there’s the local colour in the narrative itself which, while undoubtedly well-exploited for dramatic edge, invites awkward questions. How, seriously, are we to imagine Kennedy’s heroine getting in and out of cars, through doors, into beds to have sex, etc. without her lover ever noticing that she’s a bit taller than he is? Oh, don’t be so literal-minded, I hear you say – surrender to the delightful fantasy … Fair enough, but all the All-Blacks-games-on-TV; actual-accounts-of-actual-films-they-go-to-see-and-how-they-got-in-and-out-of-the-auditorium details encourage me to be literal-minded. You can’t have it both ways. Either it’s a fairy tale (in which case I’d welcome less preaching and more of the ironic observation of people and their quirks which is one of Kennedy’s greatest strengths), or else it’s a documentary, in which case logical discrepancies in scene-setting suddenly begin to matter.
I’m sorry. I do think this is a fruitful direction for Anne Kennedy’s work to explore, but I don’t think The Time of the Giants is entirely there yet.