It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything by Hanif Kureishi. In fact, i think the only thing I’ve read by him was the Buddha of Suburbia (brilliant, if memory serves). Along comes The Last Word and I thought, why not? Kureishi is a well-known satirist, and in this book he takes an aging, once-famous author to task.
Unfortunately, I didn’t love the book. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It is about a young-ish writer tasked with writing a biography of Mamoom Azam, an aging and crotchety writer, modeled in some ways on Salman Rushdie (think womanizer and scandal plagued). All that sounds very promising to me, but in the end I just felt that the whole endeavor was rather misogynistic.
Misogyny in great writers in not a new thing, nor even a bad thing in some cases. That is, a writer can still be brilliant while making me feel icky. But that is not the case with The Last Word. I found the male characters to be completely unlikable, and quite frankly, boring. If you’re going to be a misogynist at least be interesting about it!
Who would like this book? You thought i was going to say misogynists, didn’t you? No. That’s not where I’m going with this. I’ve always been interested in writers and in writers’ lives, and The Last Word scratched that itch for me. It also reminded me so-what of Ian McEwan. I’m not always a fan of McEwan’s work while I’m reading it, but at the end he generally manages to pull things together in a way that impresses me. Kureishi does the same thing in this work.
I received a copy of this book for review consideration from the publisher via Edelweiss.
I don’t know whether or not this is relevant but I did one of those Guardian masterclasses about writing a couple of years ago and Kureishi gave the keynote talk – and he was a miserable, grumpy old bastard! He was though a perfect example of what we Glaswegians call well-balanced cos he had a chip on both shoulders! I think I will give this a miss!
Interesting indeed! Well the character in the book was certainly well-balanced, as you say! I’ve always wondered about those Guardian classes…
Once again we seem to be in full agreement. I had to review this book for Library Journal a few months ago and, though I liked the premise, I thought the author was very mean-spirited. Also, I read that it was possibly a slam on V. S. Naipaul, though, you’re right, could be Rushdie. I just couldn’t recommend it.
I thought it could be about VS Naipal as well, but then I didn’t know if he was such a womanizer or not. I read Sir Vidya years ago, but remember more about his feud with Theroux.
I think The Buddha of Suburbia is the only other one of his books I’ve read too. I enjoyed Buddha, but found The Last Word boring too.Such a shame.
I so want to read Hanif Kureishi’s books! I am not familiar with his writing but the premise of the books always appeal to me. I will have to check out Buddha of Suburbia!
I love that you can always come up with something nice to say about a book. This felt like a really fair and balanced review.
I feel like just because I don’t like a book, it doesn’t mean others won’t. I didn’t like Harry Potter, so…
Haha, yeah, I think we’ve all experienced cases where we love an overlooked gem or are underwhelmed by something that’s been getting rave reviews. I love that even when we have different likes and dislikes we can learn something from a good review that describes in detail why someone liked or disliked a book. I suppose if that wasn’t the case, we probably wouldn’t be writing reviews 🙂
I was going to say pretty much the same thing Katie said above! Great way to review a book you didn’t like so much. I am not sure I could handle reading a misogynistic book without throwing it across the room!
I was tempted to throw it across the room, but I was reading on my e-reader and didn’t want to damage it.