Paperback 6" x 9" 312 pages ISBN 978-1-291-01485-3 Published November 2012
S. Kadison has been a teacher for over twenty years and draws on this experience in several stories. Born in Germany, Kadison came to England as an infant and was raised in a small village in Kent. Moving to Bristol as a science student and then later holding jobs in the north west and the Midlands, Yorkshire and Manchester, Kadisonís writing is informed by the cultural uniformity discovered within this variety.
This is the authorís second collection of stories
In its readiness to listen in on the speech of a wide variety of ordinary, working people, and to give us insights into the texture of their daily lives, S. Kadison's writing is not merely unfashionable, it is like very little that is currently being written (or anyway published.) It does however remind me of that fine, scandalously neglected American writer, Nelson Algren. Like Algren, Kadison's socialism, while never reductive, is integral to his vision of what life is and what it could be. And like Algren, he makes satisfying stories out of what happens to happen to the kind of people whose existence, when it's noticed at all, is for the most part caricatured or sentimentalized. In other words, Kadison testifies to the value of Camus's claim that art is nobody's enemy, because it opens the prisons and gives voice to the sorrows and joys of all.
You don't need to travel far to find a story. They're all around you if you keep your eyes and ears open, which is what a good writer does. A man comes home from the army, meets the miseries of post-war Britain, gets a job as a salesman, prospers, marries, opens his own shop, and then loses everything when he takes a fancy to one of his assistants. A teacher with high ideals has them challenged by disruptive pupils. Someone with early ambitions to be an artist is pushed into a mundane job and a joyless marriage. And a report in a local newspaper about the death of a woman causes a man to reflect on their one meeting when they were teenagers, and the fact that he'd never forgotten her. Everyday stories in ordinary settings. S.Kadison tells them directly in a way that shows a real concern for people and their problems.
These stories put me in mind of Gissing and Richard Yates Ė who in their very different centuries and countries mercilessly exposed the threadbare materialistic dreams of the middle classes. Neither of those admirable writers was hugely popular, nor ever, in the glib sense, populist, but both were true and powerful storytellers. Kadison too is a disabused social critic, moralist and analyst of human nature, someone who castigates snobbery and hypocrisy with sardonic often heart-rending honesty. Kadison shares their bitter sense of humour and keen sympathy for all failures and misfits - anyone trapped by blighted relationships and thwarted ambitions.
Kadisonís distinctive voice is overdue for discovery and strikes a highly relevant if unsettling chord in the genteel jungle of contemporary British literature.
I received a copy of his short story collection God's Laboratories several months ago, and it disappeared under a pile of books. I lately got round to reading them, and enjoyed them greatly. His work is strong, that original voice of his. I look forward to reading more.