cover image Love in a Blue Time: Short Stories

Love in a Blue Time: Short Stories

Hanif Kureishi / Author Scribner Book Company $21.5 (224p) ISB

The characters in this collection of 10 stories--chiefly Pakistanis transplanted to England--are for the most part bitter, vengeful, petty, unfulfilled and vicious. They're unattractive to their fellow characters and to us. But screenwriter (My Beautiful Laundrette) and novelist (The Buddha of Suburbia) Kureishi's unadorned prose and fast plots compel a surprising amount of empathy for these small souls, along with satisfaction that we are not they. In the collection's sharpest piece, ""D'Accord, Baby,"" moviemaker Bill discovers that his wife has slept with a French intellectual named Vincent, so he sets out to bed Vincent's daughter in an act of revenge. But after Bill satisfies her demands for rough sex, he leaves with the bittersweet revelation ""that happiness was beyond him and everything was coming down, and that life could not be grasped but only lived."" In the collection's longest, most cluttered story, ""With Your Tongue Down My Throat,"" a young woman meets the half-sister who has garnered her father's devotion and then embarks on a wild Pakistani adventure that blows the lid off her sibling's demure facade. In these and the other stories, sordid behavior is never more than a page away, as the wry wit of Kureishi's mischievous fiction enlivens a series of airless, empty lives. (Nov.)