THE BODY

Hanif Kureishi, Author . Scribner $18 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7432-4904-1

At once intriguing and preposterous, Kureishi's slender new novel starts off promisingly. Adam, the narrator, a famous writer in his 60s, is approached at a party by an attractive and mysterious young man named Ralph. Ralph claims to be an old man whose brain has been transplanted into a new, younger body. The bodies come from dead young people, whose deaths seem eerily convenient for those who want to become "Newbodies." At first Adam does not believe the story. But Ralph's entreaties are so convincing—and appealing—that Adam agrees to temporarily transplant his brain into the body of a man of 25. After all, "Who hasn't asked: Why can't I be someone else? Who, really, wouldn't want to live again, given the chance?" The science behind the idea is vague and silly, but Kureishi probably never meant it to be convincing. Instead, he sends Adam on various soul-searching journeys in his new body, which was "stocky and as classically handsome as any sculpture in the British Museum." Adam waxes on his life in a new body, has loads of hot sex and eventually settles at a spiritual retreat on a Greek island. But soon he yearns to return to his old body—warts and all—and to his wife and former life in London. But menacing forces conspire against him, and he soon realizes the grave consequences of his decision. The novel is too short and sketchy to fully explore the ramifications of its premise. Kureishi, through Adam, has many things to say about life in an alien body, but these musings never really cohere. And the creepiness of the setup, which could have made for spine-tingling reading, never amounts to much. Still, the writing, as in Kureishi's other novels (Intimacy ; The Buddha of Suburbia ), is crisp and precise, and the book should satisfy his fans until something more substantial comes along. (Feb. 24)

Reviewed on: 12/22/2003
Release date: 02/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 266 pages - 978-0-571-20972-9
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-4165-8648-7
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-7432-4905-8
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