Monday, September 17, 2007

Reviewing ‘A Certain Age’ by Lynne Truss

This book is a collection of twelve monologues that were presented by actors in two series on BBC Radio Four in 2002 (female voices) and 2005 (male voices). They are written by Lynne Truss, former British journalist and currently a fiction and non-fiction author. She is best known internationally for her best seller, Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

These monologues (‘what a turn-off word it is,’ says Truss) come with brief introductory comments and notes to help the readers visualize the setting and sense the mood. They are stand alone pieces but the title, A Certain Age, provides an overarching theme within which the speakers address a range of life situations, encompassing such things as love, romance, friendship and family.

The monological style (does that word turn you on?) is superb for revealing deep secrets, as it stimulates the streams of consciousness in thoughts that are confessional and sometimes naïve.

Truss is witty, clever, earthy and humorous with her stage directions as well as her scripts. In a hilarious monologue by a newspaper photographer who has to take pictures of two mediums for articles on their craft, the women are bombarded with other-worldly revelations for this man that come to them “like psychic spam!” (p40) Another character is addicted to massage and skin treatments and is said to be “dabbling in colonic irrigation.” (p54)

The author’s passion for vivid words and proper punctuation is written into several of the scripts. One speaker is brought to a standstill by a split infinitive while another savors the sounds of the word ‘embezzlement’. In the monologue entitled, The Wife, the author captures the character’s self-doubts and anxieties with Henny prattling on in long, tension-filled sentences without taking time for a breath.

A Certain Age is a barrel of laughs but it also presents many perceptive insights. In the monologue entitled, The Father, Truss introduces John as a widower who ‘thinks he is dynamic but he is not’. As he thumbs through his vinyl records with all their memories, he ponders the way young people have all their music on memory sticks (‘like chewing gum’) or on iPods the size of cigarette packets. John expresses his disgust with these new-fangled devices in which so much music is squashed together “like musical spermatozoa.” (p63) The widower also expresses his views on the inappropriateness of people’s support when he says, “Everyone’s an expert on me and David, see; everyone’s our unofficial counselor; that’s what happens when you’re bereaved.” (p70)

Lynne Truss, A Certain Age (London: Profile Books, 2007). This book is available from Magrudy’s Bookshops in the UAE at a cost of Dh 91.00.

Geoff Pound

Image: Front cover of A Certain Age; Lynne Truss.