Before the Wax Hardened by Adrian Kenny
Before the Wax Hardened
Adrian Kenny deserves to be better known. Married to Ruth Webster, longtime doyenne of the wonderful Books Upstairs, Kenny has produced some beauties – The Family Business, Istanbul Diary, Portobello Notebook, all with the Lilliput Press. First published in 1991, Before the Wax Hardened straddles dualities – the home place in Mayo against bourgeois Dublin 6; the earthy sexuality of the family’s “maid”, her room smelling of sweat and talcum powder, against his Mama, she praying the memoir project would fail, desperately fearing revelation; the intensity of being part of a big family against the terror of going out into the world. A phenomenal capacity to render dialogue from the long ago on a par with uber master Aidan Higgins, Kenny’s figures spring to life via their own words. His description of the nervous collapse – extreme sensitivity against the necessity to stand alone – is wonderfully told; his brain-fevered rush home produces giant phalluses, a terror that he is “queer”. Deadly.