The Last Word by Hanif Kureishi (1 out of 5)
I read and loved Hanif Kureishi’s book The Buddha of Suburbia. I wish I could have said the same was true with The Last Word. I got this as a galley, either from the publisher or as a giveaway. It’s not out until next year (March 10, 2015, last date I heard), so you have time to plot another book you’d rather read. Regrettably, I won’t recommend this one be it.
Mamoon used to be THE author, back in the day. The way it’s written, you feel as if he had a Salman Rushdie type of cult following, minus the fatwas and bounties, but with all of the critical and groupie praise that follows a writer of such stature. He’s NOT that hot author anymore, he’s in his 70’s, his creativity and eyesight have dried up, and his decades younger wife has her heart set on all of the expensive tastes that Mamoon honestly cannot afford; but he can’t deny her anything. That was my first problem with the book. Someone who has no problem telling everyone else that they’re useless should have no problem putting the brakes on his wife’s extravagant spending, but not to the one who’s bleeding him dry?. The wife? Is a piece of work. Really, really annoying. Another reason it was difficult to build a bridge of any sort with this book. I wanted to beat the hell out of both of them.
Harry’s a young writer who gets the “assignment of a lifetime” (my words and air quotes, done in a sarcastic nature. My words. They are never uttered in the book, although they are hinted at) getting to write the “juicy, no holds barred biography” of Mamoon. This is a move designed to revive some interest in the waning career that used to be hot to the touch, as well as replenish funds in the now defunct bank account that Mamoon’s wife has attached herself to. Harry really wants to get into Mamoon’s head, admiring his writing, his muse, and his career. Rob, the publishing agent, is a worm of a different variety and wants a salacious, naughty book. Mamoon? He has a whole different idea of a memoir planned out, at least that’s what the reader is led to believe. What I got was a whole lot of confused. I was really fucking confused…and then I just straight up stopped giving a crap. The vapid wife, the stubborn old fool Mamoon, and poor Harry caught in the battle of wills.
You’re led to believe that it’s also a book about the question of your past, youthful indiscretions and the like, and how it affects your current and future life (lives). Well, the way that Mamoon and the Missus behave makes you believe that stuck-up, self-centered creative types really just care more about the money and the adoration that comes with it, not really about fine-tuning your craft and your passion and getting joy out of it. Those of us who write and really give a rat’s ass- well, if you read this book, it will make you see red. Not the “I Saw Red’ by Warrant type of fury, but close (if YOU had to listen to “I Saw Red” by Warrant, you, too, would be angry). It does start off great, but oh boy, the swamp waters rise up quickly to consume the reader, and in this case, you don’t mind choking on swamp water, running into gators, or water moccasins, because it’s got to be better than reading this drivel. If you want to read Kureishi, read The Buddha of Suburbia. That’s a winner. This is swamp gator dinner.