Adventures in Reading

Fiction: Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi

“Secrets are my currency: I deal them for a living. The secrets of desire, of what people really want, and of what they fear the most. The secrets of why love is difficult, sex complicated, living painful and death so close and yet placed far away. Why are pleasure and punishment closely related? How do our bodies speak? Why do we make ourselves ill? Why do you want to fail? Why is pleasure hard to bear?”

I picked up an advanced reader’s copy of Hanif Kureishi’s Something to Tell You on a whim and found myself quite pleased as I became increasingly drawn into the narrative. Jamal, the son of Pakistani immigrants, is a psychoanalyst in London and now at middle-aged with a son and a divorced wife. Jamal has a secret in his past and when he faces a long lost love he’s forced into concern over past actions. In a novel of increasing complexity and layers, Jamal’s life comes to a near absurd stage as his past, present, and future collapse in on each other.

Kureishi’s work is one of the most beautifully textured novels I’ve read in a long time. The author moves back and forth easily through the decades utilizing complex ideas of psychoanalysis, politics, etc. to give his characters a rough edge. Like Nelson Algren’s novels, Something to Tell You is peopled with characters (directors, prostitutes, welfare mothers, and even a visit from Mick Jagger) you won’t always like because they can be mean, vindictive, selfish, and careless. But throughout the book these characters passions and problems provide for rich and stirring reading. In the reader/character relationship you get to become the analyst and watch all of these characters queuing for the figurative couch.

The energetic plot has made me want to pick up Freud and it’s a valuable depth in a book that encourages the reader to expand horizons and in a minor way to step into the text. Kureishi previously published The Buddha of Suburbia and is also has two movies My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid.

Some stuff on Kureishi from the Bookninja and another take from Asylum.

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