Paradise and Elsewhere
“The Kissing Disease”
“The Kissing Disease” is from Kathy Page’s collection, Paradise & Elsewhere (Biblioasis). Page is the author of seven novels, including The Story of My Face, long-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002 and; Alphabet, which was short-listed for a Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction and scheduled for American release Fall 2104. She is a British writer now living in Canada.
Author Amy Bloom said of Kathy Page: “she illuminates the unknown, the creepy, the odd, the other and the rest of us. Her unforgettable prose is moody, shape-shifting, provocative and always as compelling as a strong light at the end of a road you hesitate to walk down…but will.”
Page said this about her story: Well, who doesn’t like to kiss? I’ll admit it cheers me to see other people kissing, too. At high school we called mono the kissing disease, but when I wrote this story I was thinking more of HIV/AIDS. That pandemic surfaced during my twenties. Everyone lost someone. There was a before, and an ongoing after. It was terrible time, but there were eventually some positive consequences: increased honesty and more open public discourse about sex, for example. It was that aspect, the silver lining, that I had in mind.
The story begins with Gary arguing with the radio. My roots are in England, and for decades BBC Radio 4 was the background to my life. No ads, little music., just wonderful voices. Between the drama, poetry and news, panels of experts and pundits would discuss in intricate (sometimes exhaustive) detail the controversies of the day. My family and I frequently joined in and I still sometimes listen online. Gary’s position as the story opens is so vehement that it implies his eventual willingness to enjoy what he thought repugnant. That’s the seed from which the story grew.
Men and masculinity interest me a great deal, as does the way in which, generally speaking, we deal with otherness by separation, as if it was contagious — which brings me right back to disease. Bodies — our relationship with them, the ways in which they may betray or overtake us or be dramatically transformed — are a preoccupation of mine. One of the protagonists in my novel Alphabet is in transition between genders; The Find centres on a woman’s struggles with the onset of Huntington’s disease, and there lies yet another of my many preoccupations: identity. How much can we change and still remain who we are? At what point do we become someone else?