SOMETHING TO TELL YOU by Hanif Kureishi (Scribner), 374 pages, $29.99 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Hanif Kureishi can really drop names. In his new novel, his psychotherapist protagonist, Jamal, hangs out with art and pop stars, including Mick Jagger, partying furiously. It's a glimpse of life on London's art scene that we don't often get.
But that's the surface stuff of Something To Tell You. The novel is really about love - lost, found and then lost again. The love of Jamal's life, Ajita, left him decades ago. That's painful but helpful, too - he has a secret he's kept from her that could change everything. And when she reappears, he has to figure out how honest he can be.
You can almost hear the sounds of London in this book - the clamour of cultures clashing, of hip-hop blaring in the clubs, of anti-Blair protests. Kureishi's description of the passengers on a city bus nails the multicultural mashup that now defines the city's demographic.
The unpredictability of parenthood is also a major theme, and estranged kids play a big role. Jamal's best friend, Henry, a famous theatre director, has a radical lefty daughter who steals some valuable art from her mother to prove a point. And Jamal's son Rafi thinks his dad is a total loser.
Set in the present and flashing back to the 70s, when Jamal went to university, the narrative deftly outlines the political changes that have occurred over the decades. People like Jamal no longer face Paki taunts. It's all about Islamophobia now, while progressive leftists wring their hands over how to handle the new Muslim extremists.
Really, though, Jamal's just looking for love. He searches in all the wrong places, including a popular London swingers club, proving that professional success (he's published two bestselling books), access to pop stars and even money can't buy you love.
Kureishi talks with me at Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room on Monday (September 15). See Readings.