Thomas E. Kennedy, an internationally acclaimed novelist, story writer and critic, is currently serving as the Sara Lura Mathews Self Writer in Residence at Converse during Winter Term 2003. As part of his responsibilities, he is teaching Advanced Tutorial in Creative Writing, a course that combines weekly one-on-one tutorials with a series of master class workshops.
Kennedy is the author of 13 books, including Unreal City, The Book of Angels, and Realism & Other Illusions: Essays on the Craft of Fiction. His short stories, poems, essays, interviews, reviews, and translations from the Danish have appeared in hundreds of anthologies and periodicals in the U.S. and Europe, including O Henry Prize Stories 1994, Pushcart Prize xv, The European, North American Review, New Letters, Kenyon Review, Sewanee Review, Southwest Review, Gettysburg Review, American Poetry Review, The Writer, Poets & Writers, and many others.
His latest novel, Kerrigan’s Copenhagen, A Love Story, is set in a different Danish tavern. And there are 59 chapters. “In Copenhagen, taverns are actually referred to as serving houses,” says Kennedy, who recently gave a public reading of selected chapters from Kerrigan’s on Jan. 21.
“The serving houses in Copenhagen provide the perfect backdrop for exploring human consciousness. From the people who make starting a conversation on practically any subject an easy task, to the overall ambience generated by the old furnishings. It’s the exact type of setting that, in my opinion, makes Kerrigan’s flow so well.” Readers will need only to turn to the opening pages of the book to find a detailed map of the actual serving houses that play such a large role in the story.
“As the full title suggests,” says Kennedy, “Kerrigan’s is based on a love story. It’s the story of a man who has had a very unhappy life and has lost virtually everything, including his family. In an effort to rid himself of his past, he trades his home country for Copenhagen, where he spends most of his time in the serving houses. He becomes increasingly fascinated by the historical events that have taken place in the very buildings where he drinks. In fact, he becomes so intrigued that he decides to take on a research associate. He has no desire whatsoever to fall in love and greatly resists the natural attraction he feels for his helper, but at the end of the day, he gives in to this basic human nature and finds that he has fallen in love…not only with his associate, but with Copenhagen as well. He finally realizes that he has been shaped by his surroundings, which is the underlying message I’ve tried to convey: that we become what we see, what we listen to, what we eat, what we experience, and what we choose to surround ourselves with.”
Kerrigan’s was not a particularly difficult novel for Kennedy to write. The Queens, N.Y. native left the U.S. at the age of 30, landing first in Paris before eventually settling in Denmark in 1976. He has lived there ever since. “In New York, I was working for the World Medical Association as a public relations assistant. When the organization decided to move its headquarters to France, I opted to go along. I was later invited to visit Copenhagen, and immediately fell in love with Denmark.”
Although he insists that Kerrigan’s is without autobiographical tendencies, there are similarities. “Very much like the main character in Kerrigan’s,” he says, “I am captivated by the history of Copenhagen. Throughout the book, I tried to weave in certain aspects of true Danish history and lore. For example, there are picturesque lakes whose shores were actually studied by Danish kings over a tho