Kemp, Jonathan. “Twenty-six”, Myriad Editions, 2011.
I discovered Jonathan Kemp by hearing about him on Facebook and then I went on to read his “London Triptych” which I totally loved. Since he is British it is a bit hard to find his books but once you do you will keep him on your favorites list. His writing is both visceral and vivid and his prose is gorgeous and erotic. His narratives are perfectly planned and his character development is wonderful. He takes the same care with his prose as he does with his characters and to read Kemp is more than just a read—it is a total experience.
“Twenty-six” or “26” is an explicit look at sex and language. Our narrator who is unnamed takes us cruising with him to parks and clubs as he pushes the boundaries of desire to receive the greatest pleasure possible. You can only imagine the way Kemp using language in his descriptions. Each chapter is named for a letter in the alphabet and we get details of encounters in each. Kemp is able to capture what happens in ways many others strive to do.
I was reminded of a course I took in college on discourse in which we discussed Bataille, Genet and Foucault and the similarities here are absolutely amazing. Because of just that, this is a very difficult book to review without giving something away.
The 26 of the title refers to the number of encounters that are powerfully erotic. Kemp explores sex in a way that surpasses eroticism and the encounters are anonymous in which there is only the pursuit of sexual pleasure. This is the kind of book that you have to read to believe and once you do I suspect that you will quickly become a Jonathan Kemp fan as I have.