INTIMACY by Hanif Kureishi


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A thin, tinny autobiographical story from the Pakistani-born British screenwriter and novelist (The Black Album, 1995;Love in a Blue Time, 1997, etc.). It’s the first-person confession of Jay, an Anglo-Asian writer (in no way distinguished from Kureishi himself) living in London, on the eve of his abandonment of his longtime lover Susan and their two small sons. Jay analyzes well beyond the point of tedium his own conflicted emotions, and the comparatively blissful lives of his friends Victor (a happily divorced playboy) and Asif (a success at marriage and fatherhood). Jay pays mildly grudging tribute to the long-suffering Susan’s genuine capabilities, and contrasts his own faithlessness to his parents’ continuing mutual fidelity. He knows he’s to blame, and muses both candidly (“desiring other women kept me from the exposure and susceptibility of loving just the one”) and ironically (“Why can’t . . . [happily married people] be blamed for being bad at promiscuity?”) about his own character flaws, while indulging in occasional sexist rationalization (“Perhaps it is a fine idea to have women close but not too close”). Memories of his boyhood and brief glimpses of his life as a writer offer brief respite from the emotional wallow. But there obviously isn’t nearly enough material here for a book, and we feel Kureishi straining on virtually every page to make his turgid (even if brief) acts of self-analysis into one. The only pages that ring at all true are those in which, with effective understatement, he expresses sorrow for leaving his boys fatherless. There seems no real reason for this book to exist, and one hopes Kureishi, having dislodged it from his system, will get back to the business of real writing.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85275-6
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999


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