Kureishi (The Black Album, 1995, etc.), well known for his screenplays My Beautiful Laundrette and Rosie and Sammie Get Laid, offers up an inveterately thin but generally amusing novel about recovering from the debilitating legacy of the rock-and-hippie world of the ’60s.
Things are seen from the consciousness of 15-year-old Gabriel Bunch, but the person who desperately needs recovery-therapy is his father Rex, a musician who hit his peak way back when he played with the fabulously successful (and still popular) Lester Jones. Ever since, though, he’s been in a slow downward spiral that, as book opens, has resulted in his being kicked out of the house by Gabriel’s mother Christine and holing up in a single room that’s very sordid indeed. Why did it happen? Well, Rex, witheringly called “an old hippie” by a fed-up Christine, is idealistic about his art and won’t compromise it—resulting in the permanent absence both of work and money. The solution? Gabriel, who has a way with his father, is the one who gets Dad a job teaching music to the troubled son of a movie mogul with deep pockets, a job that leads to others like it and to an all-new Rex (he likes the work) and a reunion with Christine. There are certain complications in the bringing of all this about—including a meeting with demigod Lester Jones himself, who is smitten by the young Gabriel and immediately recognizes his art-talent (he even makes a picture for him, which Rex then hocks). Amusing deceptions, misunderstandings, and setbacks precede the happy end, including Christine’s (“Don’t shout at me. I’m a single mother and I’ve got a headache!”) troubles with men and jobs and Gabriel’s Delphic communings with his dead identical twin brother Archie, who offers advice both on art and on parent management.
Pleasant frivolities, with just a refreshing dash of cynicism and attitude.