""I have been trying to convince myself that leaving someone isn't the worst thing you can do to them,"" says Jay, the middle-aged narrator of this relentlessly honest account of one man's preparations to abandon his two young sons and their mother. Jay and Susan lead comfortable lives in contemporary London: efficient, ambitious Susan works in publishing and reads cookbooks in bed, and withdrawn but steady Jay is a successful movie and TV scriptwriter. Jay no longer loves Susan, however, and an affair with Nina, a quixotic young hippie, leads the minor-league Casanova to conclude that he deserves the freedom to explore ""the possibilities of intimacy"" rather than endure the quiet stasis of his life with Susan. But Jay's desire for emotional independence is complicated by his love for his two sons, and he spends the night before his departure considering the unsatisfying examples of two friends: serious-minded professor Asif, who believes that marriage should require work, and Victor, who left his wife for a youthful, liberated existence only to find himself eating alone in his convenience flat. British author Kureishi (My Beautiful Launderette; The Buddha of Suburbia) once again jumps into the quagmire of contemporary mores with this treatise on the feckless nature of intimacy, both sexual and emotional. This book's particularly male solipsism proved controversial when it was published in England last year. But Kureishi's spare, direct prose balances his sometimes cruel detachment--especially in regard to Susan--with a ruthless investigation of Jay's flaws. Ultimately, Kureishi's refusal to let Jay escape unscathed from the emotional ravages of his actions transforms the story from a shop-worn tale of sexual infidelity to a devastating and insightful portrait of how--for better or for worse--betrayal can become a form of self-renewal. First serial to the New Yorker. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999 Release date: 03/01/1999 Genre: Fiction
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