‘Intimacy’ by Hanif Kureishi is one of my most favored novels. I have picked it up so many times, I have lost count—it’s my go-to book in-between reads. I have also read many of Kureishi’s short stories and I must confess I’m a little in love with his writing.
Kureishi mostly writes about love and marriage, or rather the unraveling of one. He is cynical about relationships and that’s evident in all his stories. That cynicism is what gives them that melancholic undertone that is trademark Kureishi.
I also like his characters because they feel very familiar—they are frustrated, angry, confused, and what they are capable of depends on their circumstances. Reading the stories, you realize your flaws are what make you human and unique. And you are grateful to Kureishi for that.
So, naturally, I was ecstatic when I came across an anthology, ‘Midnight all Day’, on a recent horde-for-another-lockdown visit to Ekta Books in Thapathali, Kathmandu.
Sadly, Midnight all Day didn’t live up to my expectations. I would still give it three out of five stars but I know, deep down, that’s because I’m biased towards Kureishi. I have been more brutal in my ratings for fewer reasons in the past.
The anthology has 10 stories. Except the final one, which I found weird but intriguing, all the other stories feel half-baked and forced. Many reminded me of the plot of Intimacy—they explore the psyche behind leaving your partner—but unlike in Intimacy, you simply can’t connect with the characters or relate to their circumstances.
In ‘Strangers When We Meet’, a young actor is supposed to go on a holiday with his older married mistress, Florence. But her husband decides to accompany her on the trip and ruins their plans. In ‘That Was Then, Nick’, a married writer, meets his former lover, Natasha, and goes back to her flat. He does this while his wife is away for the day and manages to get back home just in time to make dinner. In ‘Four Blue Chairs’, a man and a woman who left their partners for each other host their first dinner as a couple.
I had major problems with the narratives. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist but I was disappointed that Kureishi chose to write about men who have left their wives for younger women but none of the stories give the women’s side. Also, in one story, a man forces his way into his ex-wife’s house when she doesn’t lend him an umbrella. The woman, in return, punches him on the face and it’s almost like Kureishi is trying to imply that both their actions were justified.
Midnight all Day is definitely not Kureishi at his best.