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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Gabriel's Gift by Hanif Kureishi 
21st-Mar-2006 11:21 pm
I didn't want to attempt reading Kureishi by starting with this novel because I had the distinct feeling that it is not his best work...but here we are, and I think I was right, alas.

Kureishi, Hanif. Gabriel's Gift. New York: Scribner, 2001.
Summary: Gabriel Bunch's father Rex, one-time bassist for rock star Lester Jones, has moved out and hit rock-bottom. However, Gabriel puts his father under pressure and helps him to get a job as a music tutor--and his father finally grows up and marries his mother. Meanwhile, Gabriel has made the best use possible of his father's contacts, getting a start at both filmmaking and painting careers.
Comments: I found this novel only marginally entertaining and not even remotely amusing. Kureishi's meditations on the intersections of creativity, maturity, and responsibility struck me as more tedious than enlightened; there are better ways to write about Peter Pan Syndrome. The prose itself was, surprisingly, more American-style spare and British-style elegant, but, regardless, the characters were as flat as pancakes. I couldn't even muster the requisite outrage and annoyance over Rex's immaturity and self-pity, and attempts to make Gabriel interesting--his hallucinations and his conversations with his deceased twin brother Archie--failed to give him any color. The other dad who "goes gay" was just surreal. The story also jumped forward and backward in time rather ham-handedly, leading to occasional confusion on my part. It's painfully obvious that Kureishi has talent and things to say as a writer, but none of it is exploited here, and none of the author's multiethnic identity made it into this novel, either. A shame, really. Naeem Murr was the same, come to think of it. Is whitewashing your storylines a multiethnic British thing???
Notes: hardcover, 1st American edition, out-of-print; trade paperback edition available
Rating: 4.5/10 - A forgettable novel about talent that is distinctly untalented.
22nd-Mar-2006 04:51 am (UTC)
I think Kureishi is one of those writers where it makes a really big difference to read his best works rather than his lesser ones. The Buddha of Suburbia and Intimacy and Midnight All Day are both really good, in slightly different ways (the latter is a collection of short stories which tend to me a little more playful/silly/surrealistic than The Buddha of Suburbia). But so far, everything else by him has really severely disappointed me. I'd recommend not bothering with anything by him but those two.
1st-Apr-2006 01:23 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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