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Original Bliss
A. L. KENNEDY

Original Bliss by A. L. Kennedy
11 reviews (1999) (224p)
Amazon.com Best Books

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Book Description
"Kennedy is a world class writer."--The New York Times Book Review

A brilliant American debut from one of Scotland's most acclaimed writers, named by Granta as one of the Twenty Best Young British Novelists.

Emotionally numb, crippled with insomnia, and caught in a frightening, abusive marriage, Helen Brindle believes that God has recently left her. She spends her days performing banal domestic chores in front of a blaring television. On the BBC one day she watches a self-help guru expound on, among other things, the "rules" of masturbation and the importance of "interior lives." Edward G. Gluck, she discovers has developed a program that guides lost souls toward contentment. Helen seeks him out, hoping to find an answer. Instead she discovers Gluck's own sadomasochistic obsession, and his profound shame and disgust. And what they both encounter, painfully, is the love each fears and both yearn to embrace.

"A darkly comic tale.... [that] is hilariously funny about sexual obsession and brilliantly perceptive about the dynamics of human relationships."--The Baltimore Sun



Amazon.com Review
Only a writer of rare talent could take an abused housewife and a pornography addict and weave around them a terrifically tender love story. A.L. Kennedy starts her extraordinary novel in Glasgow, Scotland, where Helen Brindle leads a life of quiet despair. Mrs. Brindle has lost her "original bliss," her ability to pray and to have her prayers answered. "She found she had lost the power of reaching out. Now and again she could force up what felt like a shout, but then know it had fallen back against her face. Finally the phrases she attempted dwindled until they were only a background mumbling mashed in with the timeless times she had asked for help." Enter Edward E. Gluck, an expert in cybernetics, whom Helen hears first on the television and then on radio. Dr. Gluck seems so effortlessly self-confident, so sure of himself that on impulse she arranges a trip to Stuttgart where he is participating in a conference, hoping that he can give her the answers she's looking for.

After an uncomfortable first meeting, Helen and Edward soon discover themselves to be kindred spirits. For if she has lost the ability to reach out, he never had it; pornography is his substitute for human connections: "The books, the magazines, I could use them according to my schedule, they seemed perfectly convenient and unshameful. Naturally, at that point I didn't quite realize I'd end up having private carrier's lorries arriving to dump shifty, plain, brown packages, addressed for only me, at every house and research establishment I would ever be associated with." Kennedy works a miracle here, creating in Edward a character with creepy proclivities who is, nonetheless, utterly lovable. And when these two damaged people finally rediscover their bliss in each other, nothing could seem more right or more natural. --Alix Wilber


A. L. Kennedy Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 0  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 0  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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