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A feast of dirty linen . . .

Jim Clarke meets a daring author who tells a shocking and true family tale The Family Business By Adrian Kenny Lilliput Press: £7.99 ADRIAN KENNY is undoubtedly the most honest man I have ever met. It is tempting to ascribe a variant of Tourette's Syndrome to him, an inability to stop himself from telling it the way he sees it. His second volume of autobiography, The Family Business, is shocking in its tactlessness. All his family's dirty laundry is presented here for public viewing, by turns moving and excruciating to read. You might assume that such a warts-and-all depiction of his family might have been inspired by some long simmering hatred, were it not for the love that is evident for them on every page. The memoir covers Kenny's life in an excellently evoked Seventies Dublin, enmeshed in his tight-knit mercantile family but wishing to break free and become a writer. Two worlds collide, that of home and church with that of the ``half-arsed bohemia'' of Dublin's hostelries. The young Adrian oscillates between the smothering hug of his family and the drunken allure of intellectual conversation and ambivalent sex. This is a genuinely unedited, uncensored book. Nothing is spared, be it his own flirtation with homosexuality or the problems and tensions that make up much of anyone's family interactions. Undoubtedly, some of his family and acquaintances are unhappy about its appearance. I asked him where he drew the line ``I don't seem to have drawn the line anywhere,'' he admitted. ``Are you justified in using any material to write about? I think if you handle material with dignity and grace, you are entitled to write about anything. This is a book about my leaving the family slowly, working out my sexual life, the family business coming to an end, and my getting married. It's a coming-of-age story. In Ireland such novels tend to be Sturm und Drang stories, because leaving the family is such a wrenching experience.''The Family Business

``Writing novels, for my generation of Irish Catholics, didn't come easy because life tended to revolve around the family,'' he says. ``There was a cardiovascular structure to Irish society where most of the blood was in the family or in politics and the church. Joyce's solution was to break those links and go away. If you look at Irish novels up to very recently, you find very accomplished novels about the Irish family where very little happens. McGahern's Amongst Women is like a still life. It's the technique that makes them work.''

Kenny's book works works best in ressurrecting the Dublin of the Seventies. The pub life, the smog, the dinner dances and public piety are all present and correct. I wondered if there was more than an element of nostalgia involved in writing it.

``I don't miss that world because I wasn't very happy in it,'' he says.

``The street traders tell me that Dublin is finished and gone, but I don't agree. It was a very narrow world. In London in the Seventies I remember seeing those West of Ireland countrymen who looked as if they had been filleted by their mother and the church. It was a look you saw in no other race: pious and castrated, in a sort of daze.

``My heart used to be sore watching them whispering orders at the bar, or huddled in a cabal out of the limelight.''

Kenny has just completed a thriller set in China. The liberation from a decade dedicated to autobiography is clearly a relief to him. The suggestion that a weight may have been lifted from his shoulders is one he assents to.

``I swear before the Shelbourne bar that I will never write autobiography again, and I'm greatly relieved. Yes, it was cathartic, but it was also a memorial to my father's efforts. I was a thorn in his side and it's all in the book.''

As we're leaving the hotel, we bump into a bride-to-be and her father in the foyer. ``There's still time to get the boat from Dun Laoghaire, you know,'' Adrian Kenny advises the young lady. She laughs, but her father scowls.

Kenny may offend as many people as he charms.

It's the honesty that does it.

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