Hanif Kureishi Criticism - Essay

James Idema (review date 29 April 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Getting by on Charm: A Young Anglo-Indian in 1970s London,” in Chicago Tribune Books, April 29, 1990, p. 6.

[In the following review, Idema describes The Buddha of Suburbia as a “polemical novel … whose trenchant views on racial injustice and class antagonisms impart outrage. …”]

This crowded, picaresque first novel about the adventures of a young Anglo-Indian in the mean streets of London during the 1970s, where “the spirit of the age among the people I knew manifested itself as general drift and idleness,” may put you in mind of the movies My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, because Hanif Kureishi,...

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Ross Clark (review date 12 May 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Dead Teenage Genius and Others,” in The Spectator, May 12, 1990, pp. 38-9.

[In the following negative review of The Buddha of Suburbia, Clark describes Kureishi as “a man with a sense of adventure that extends little further than experimentation in metropolitan sex and drugs.”]

After writing one homosexual screenplay, My Beautiful Launderette, and one heterosexual screenplay, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, it was a fair guess that Hanif Kureishi was going to turn the hero of his first novel into a raving bisexual. Mr Kureishi is a man with a sense of adventure that extends little further than experimentation in metropolitan sex and drugs. He recently gained fame as the Radio Four guest who unthinkingly announced that he found the Great London Poll Tax Riot ‘terrific’—if it was so ‘terrific’ then how come all the broken glass had been swept up by Sunday afternoon, 24 hours later? There is only one explanation: that Mr Kureishi is a half-hearted adventurer who rather appreciates his middle-class home.

His character, Karim Amir, is no different, and whiles his way through a 1970s South London adolescence, taking drugs and grabbing the genitals of his father’s girlfriend’s son Charlie. At one point Karim appears to be a great Who fan, but Mr Kureishi, the man who has brought Hackney writing to Chislehurst, is talking not so much about his generation as his degeneration. There may well be a certain squalid realism about it all, but it appears that Mr Kureishi has entirely overlooked the first rule as regards squalor: that while one may tolerate one’s own one is firmly repelled by other peoples’. The rule applies to reading about it every bit as much as to seeing and smelling it.

Richard Eder (review date 3 June 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “E Pluribus England,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 3, 1990, pp. 3, 10.

[In the following review of The Buddha of Suburbia, Eder commends Kureishi's Third World perspective, although finds weakness in the later sections of the novel.]

“My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost.”

It is a start worthy of Dickens; one of those bagpipe sentences whose skirl heralds the book to come, and whose bumpy drone nourishes it as it goes along. The Buddha of Suburbia is London subverted—notice that “almost”—by reality.

There is London as idea: St. Paul’s, sweet Thames, the...

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Félix Jiménez (review date 9 July 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Gland Illusion,” in The Nation, July 9, 1990, pp. 63-4.

[In the following review of The Buddha of Suburbia, Jiménez finds shortcomings in the novel's empty hedonism and unconvincing resolution.]

Karim Amir is squeezing a favorite penis (not his own) to Pink Floyd’s “Ummagumma.” He’s 17. In order to squeeze so, he’s forgone a dreaded chess club meeting and gone out with his father, Haroon, for a karmic night around town. Karim is no Janis Ian inventing lovers on the phone. As he will tell you, he’s from suburbia, South London, and going somewhere—to the real London, the asterisk, the inevitable tour of duty, and then, who knows?...

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Tariq Rahman (review date Spring 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Buddha of Suburbia, in World Literature Today, Vol. 65, No. 2, Spring, 1991, p. 370.

[In the following mixed review, Rahman finds The Buddha of Suburbia “somewhat tedious to read,” but commends the author's realistic portrayal of the characters' “blighted lives.”]

Hanif Kureishi is well known for such compassionate plays on race relations as Birds of Passage (1983) and My Beautiful Laundrette (1986). The Buddha of Suburbia is his first novel, and though it features Asians living in England, it does not focus upon race relations except in passing. The main theme now is the confusion of values and...

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Jonathan Romney (review date 13 December 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Sound of Silence,” in New Statesman & Society, December 13, 1991, pp. 30-1.

[In the following negative review, Romney asserts that London Kills Me “falls because it has precious little to say about characters who have precious little to say.”]

Hanif Kureishi’s London Kills Me is not a pop film as such, although you might expect it to be. The published script is accompanied by a eulogy to the Beatles, in which Kureishi is at pains to stress pop’s status as “the richest cultural form in postwar Britain”, and to locate writing in relation to that form: “It is pop that has spoken of ordinary experience with far more...

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Reed Way Dasenbrock (review date Autumn 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of London Kills Me, in World Literature Today, Vol. 66, No. 4, Autumn, 1992, p. 724.

[Below, Dasenbrock gives a mixed assessment of London Kills Me and Kureishi's writing in general.]

London Kills Me is a collection of three screenplays and four essays by one of the most visible young “Black British” writers, Hanif Kureishi. These include the screenplays of the two well-known films Kureishi wrote for Stephen Frears, My Beautiful Laundrette and Rosie and Sammy Get Laid, as well as the screenplay of the new film Kureishi directed himself which gives the volume its title. Each screenplay is introduced by a related...

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James Saynor (review date 3 March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Mirrorshades,” in New Statesman & Society, March 3, 1995, pp. 40-1.

[In the following review, Saynor offers tempered praise for The Black Album, finding shortcomings in Kureishi's lack of vision.]

According to Milan Kundera, “human life is bounded by two chasms: fanaticism on one side, absolute scepticism on the other”. For Hanif Kureishi, though, these giant goal-markers can be surprisingly close together. The protagonist of The Black Album, Kureishi’s second novel, is partly an insolent cynic, in common with most of the author’s young male heroes. But he’s also partly in thrall to hardline Islam—just at the moment when...

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David Horspool (review date 11 March 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Passion of a Vegetable Fashion,” in The Spectator, March 11, 1995, p. 33.

[In the following review, Horspool offers an unfavorable assessment of The Black Album, citing Kureishi's “talent for caricature” as weak.]

Shahid, the young hero of Hanif Kureishi’s second novel, spends most of his time trying to make his mind up. But the oddest choice he has to face is between his lecturer-lover and a sacred aubergine, which has been written on by Allah (‘it’s me or the enchanted eggplant’, as she puts it).

Kureishi, the author of The Buddha of Suburbia and three screenplays, can apparently put anything (like the...

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Liz Thomson (review date 12 May 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Low Fidelity,” in New Statesman & Society, May 12, 1995, p. 37.

[In the following review of The Faber Book of Pop, Thomson claims, “there is gold here, but also much that doesn't glitter at all.”]

Rave novelist Irvine Welsh is reportedly unhappy at his acceptance by the literati. Hanif Kureishi would surely applaud it—indeed, would see it as inevitable. For he regards pop journalism in all its myriad forms as part of the literary continuum. In his introduction to The Faber Book of Pop. Kureishi dismisses Tom Wolfe’s 1989 “literary manifesto for the new social novel”, declaring pop journalism, biography, the “non-fiction...

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Michael Bywater (review date 13 May 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Never Mind the Width, Feel the Lack of Quality,” in The Spectator, May 13, 1995, pp. 44-5.

[In the following review, Bywater offers a negative assessment of pop music and The Faber Book of Pop.]

Those who can’t, no longer teach, but go into journalism, where the great thing is to natter and scratch like hens. Scratch, scratch, scratch. That’s why journalists love the pop industry: plenty of surface. Scratch it away and, look!, more surface, and it changes every day. Pop is surface all the way down. The musical toolbag contains only surface instruments—rhythmic thud, punch, whine and whop—and the emotions, too, are superficial: easily dissembled,...

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The Economist (review date 15 July 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Economist (review date 15 July 1995)

SOURCE: “Talking 'bout My Generation,” in The Economist, July 15, 1995, p. 67.

[In the following review, the critic discusses the portrayal of pop music in The Faber Book of Pop.]

Pop music “is the wonder of post-war British and American culture”, says Hanif Kureishi in The Faber Book of Pop. It is not as bold a claim as it seems. The development of pop music (broadly defined) into a global phenomenon is a cause for wonder. It is now almost impossible to avoid, hard as some try. It has infiltrated everything from films and television to the shopping mall, the airport, the corporate PR...

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Beverly Fields (review date 22 October 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Literature vs. Piety on the Streets of London,” in Chicago Tribune Books, October 22, 1995, p. 5.

[In the following review, Fields offers tempered praise for The Black Album, which she considers less well-written than The Buddha of Suburbia.]

Hanif Kureishi has said of his new novel, The Black Album, that it is the first expression, in fiction, of support for Salman Rushdie, whose career as a writer is literally a matter of life and death. Kureishi has set his novel in 1989, the year of the fatwa, the death sentence imposed on Rushdie by the Iranian theocracy as his punishment for having written what it considers—in the face of all contrary...

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Dennis Drabelle (review date 12 November 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Loves and Zealots,” in Washington Post Book World, November 12, 1995, p. 8.

[In the following review, Drabelle offers a positive assessment of The Black Album, although he notes weakness in its “creaky structure.”]

The title of Hanif Kureishi’s speedy second novel, which takes place in London just after the fatwa has come down against Salman Rushdie (1989), refers to a work by the Artist Still Happily Known as Prince. Shahid Hasan, the Pakistani-English protagonist, is a Prince fan, dope fan, sex fan, anything but college fan, though his primary occupation is supposed to be studying.

Contrary to stereotype, Shahid...

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Bruce King (review date Spring 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of The Black Album, in World Literature Today, Vol. 70, No. 2, Spring, 1996, pp. 405-6.

[In the following review, King offers a favorable assessment of The Black Album, but finds that it is weakened by Kureishi's tendency toward triteness.]

Hanif Kureishi’s latest portrait of post-swinging London is set in 1989, the year of the publication of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. The liberations of the sixties, the ideologies of the seventies, massive immigration, and Thatcherite economics have resulted in acid raves, slavish followers of any anti-Western slogan, universities in which no one reads, sex without love, disappointed feminists,...

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John Bowen (review date 6 December 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “White Men Behaving Badly,” in Times Literary Supplement, December 6, 1996, p. 28.

[In the following excerpt, Bowen offers an unfavorable assessment of The Faber Book of Pop.]

The culture of rock music is a notoriously excessive affair. Anthologies are one way of capturing some of its monstrosity, and in these two fat collections, culled from a half-century or so of writing about rock and pop, we encounter, among other things, Elvis’s 19,000 drug prescriptions in two and a half years, Ike Turner’s thirteen wives (and innumerable affairs and one-night stands), and countless trashed hotel rooms and wrecked lives, to say nothing of such curiosities as Lou...

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Sean O'Brien (review date 28 March 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Eighties Vanities,” in Times Literary Supplement, March 28, 1997, p. 20.

[In the following review of Love in a Blue Time, O'Brien commends Kureishi's perspective and observations, but finds shortcomings in his underdeveloped plots and characters.]

Love in a Blue Time is described by its publishers as concerned with “the difficult, serious business of love—and hate”, but it might be more accurate to say that the book’s main subjects are underachievement, distraction and the afterlife of youth. Love, for which sex appears a synonym, is an arena in which these conditions are indulged and suffered. Two brief stories, “We’re Not...

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Donald Weber (review date Spring 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘No Secrets Were Safe from Me’: Situating Hanif Kureishi,” in Massachusetts Review, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 1, Spring, 1997, pp. 119-35.

[In the following essay, Weber examines aspects of ethnicity, cultural identity, and literary practice in Kureishi's fiction and films, particularly in relation to American ethnic writers such as Jewish-American author Philip Roth.]

I want to begin this essay, which seeks to situate the contemporary Pakistani-British novelist/filmmaker Hanif Kureishi in relation to American ethnic expression, with two striking, provocative exchanges. The first is by the distinguished socialist scholar (and editor of the important journal...

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Ra Page (review date 10 May 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Into the Blue,” in The Spectator, May 10, 1997, pp. 36-7.

[In the following review, Page offers a generally positive assessment of Love in a Blue Time, but finds shortcomings in Kureishi's tendency toward caricature.]

As any closet romantic will tell you, falling out of love can be an even grander experience than falling into it, as well as, of course, a more permanent one. The revelations of disenchantment and ways of surviving it form the basis of Hanif Kureishi’s latest outing—a collection of bawdy and often indulgent short stories. The opening tale, ‘In the Blue’, sets the tone with the betrayals of a 22-year-old, by now perfunctory,...

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David L. Ulin (review date 28 December 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hanif Kureishi Makes an Excursion into Short Fiction,” in Chicago Tribune Books, December 28, 1997, p. 3.

[In the following review, Ulin offers an overall unfavorable assessment of Love in a Blue Time, despite “the success of some pieces.”]

Since the mid-1980s, Hanif Kureishi has chronicled the life of modern London in a variety of media, alternating among fiction, screenplays and stage plays with apparent ease. First recognized for his film My Beautiful Laundrette, in which the dual specters of British racism and homophobia were given a very human—and, at times, unsettlingly personal—face, Kureishi writes about a society transformed...

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Kenneth C. Kaleta (essay date 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Kureishi's Storytelling: Liquid Windows,” in Hanif Kureishi: Postcolonial Storyteller, University of Texas Press, 1998, pp. 240-57.

[In the following essay, Kaleta provides an overview of the central themes, social and cultural concerns, and artistic techniques in Kureishi's fiction and films.]

Popular response to Kureishi has not yet moved beyond initially reacting to his work with hyphenated cultural descriptors. After more than a decade, however, critical response to Kureishi appears to be moving toward an expanded perspective. He neither accepts nor acknowledges making cultural descriptors into literary criticism. Kureishi has not only survived his...

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Bruce King (review date Spring 1998)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Love in a Blue Time, in World Literature Today, Vol. 72, No. 2, Spring, 1998, pp. 371-2.

[In the following review, King gives a favorable assessment of Love in a Blue Time.]

Written over the past decade, the six short stories of Love in a Blue Time, all republished from magazines, are a pleasant surprise. Their conciseness compresses desire, indulgence, and subsequent frustrations into a few dreamlike yet highly colloquial pages. Everything appears to happen at once, in the present, with no time for reflection. An effective technique is the sudden, unannounced, unprepared shift into the mind of someone on drugs or having sex, or into...

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Walter Kirn (review date 15 March 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Diet Fiction,” in New York, March 15, 1999, pp. 59-60.

[In the following review, Kirn finds that Intimacy achieves only a “handsome tedium.”]

Size matters in fiction, but so does lack of size. Everything else being equal, fat novels tend to be perceived as serious, very thin ones as more honest, more real. Writers address these age-old expectations by filling their big books with philosophy and cramming their little ones with feeling. Lately, it’s the massive efforts that have gotten more attention, but that may be changing. Witness two new miniatures published by the same company, Scribners, and promoted for their supposed authenticity. Sized...

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Minna Proctor (review date 19 April 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Buddha Leaves Suburbia,” in The Nation, April 19, 1999, pp. 38-40.

[Below, Proctor reviews Kureishi's career up to Intimacy.]

If you adored Catherine Texier’s Breakup last year, fell to the floor gushing sympathetic tears for the abandoned raconteur and raised your fists with indignant empathy over the cruelty of love’s death, then you’ll probably be just as content to steer clear of Intimacy, Hanif Kureishi’s fourth work of fiction. If, however, you found Texier’s blitzkrieg of grief indulgent, if you wearied by page ten of the unnuanced voice of victimization, if you wondered when it stopped taking two to tango, “if you, too,...

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Peter Rainer (review date 12 July 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Buddy Flicks,” in New York, July 12, 1999, pp. 49-50.

[In the following review, Rainer gives a brief plot summary of My Son the Fanatic.]

Parvez (Om Puri), the middle-aged Pakistani cabdriver in the marvelous My Son the Fanatic, moved to the industrial north of England 25 years ago with his wife, Minoo (Gopi Desai), and, against the evidence of his eyes, still sees his adopted country as a fabled and pleasant place. He’s a naïf who has internalized the rewards of Empire far more than have the native English. When his only child, Farid (Akbar Kurtha), who still lives at home, drops his white fiancée, forsakes his possessions, and becomes an...

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Stanley Kauffmann (review date 9 August 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Daughter, a Father,” in The New Republic, August 9, 1999, p. 30.

[In the following review, Kauffmann examines Parvez, the central character of My Son the Fanatic.]

Belatedly, a welcome to My Son the Fanatic (Miramax). It was written by Hanif Kureishi, author of My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, and was directed by Udayan Prasad, Indian-born but raised in England, whose second feature it is. I’ve not seen his first, Brothers in Trouble, but Om Puri, who was in it, plays the leading role in the new picture.

Here Puri is Parvez, Pakistani-born, who has spent twenty-five years as a taxi...

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Hanif Kureishi with Colin MacCabe (interview date Autumn 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Hanif Kureishi on London,” in Critical Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, Autumn, 1999, pp. 37-56.

[In the following interview, Kureishi discusses racial and cultural issues in contemporary London, his background and experiences in London, and the creative processes behind his fiction and films.]

[MacCabe:] Good evening, I’m Colin MacCabe, Chairman of the London Consortium, which, together with the Architectural Association, has organised this conference on London as a post-colonial city, to which Hanif Kureishi’s season of films and particularly tonight’s conversation are a curtain-raiser. Kureishi’s work has almost all been set in London and...

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Phil Baker (review date 12 November 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Umbrella Rage,” in Times Literary Supplement, November 12, 1999, p. 24.

[In the following review, Baker offers a generally positive assessment of Midnight All Day.]

“What could be more beguiling than other people’s stymied desire?” asks the narrator in one of these ten short stories [in Midnight All Day], bitterly sure that the tale of his romantic misfortunes is going to do the rounds among his friends. Stymied desire is the constant factor in the collection, which circles relentlessly around non-communication; toxic relationships and the bloody-mindedness of other people.

Frustration piles up excruciatingly, in “Strangers...

(The entire section is 885 words.)