Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi Review by: Frederick Luis Aldama Callaloo, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Autumn, 1999), pp.

1097-1100 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 14/03/2012 12:35
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Intimacy. and producing plays . Kazuo Ishiguro. not so unlike the author. for instance. penning reviews. and their two ABC-age sons. and thereby no deeper than Dash's frown upon the controversy Glissant unintentionally brought upon himself. and socially transgressive characters. Too. and playwright with an "Empire-Writes-Back" attitude. Gene Jarrett Brown University Kureishi. And also like his author. while it is Kureishi's most autobiographically confessional work to date. Light to hand at barely a hundred pages. Indians and Africans. scenarist. plays drums for a rock group.) When Jay leaves Susan. it tiptoes most lightly of his works around issues of racial and sexual identity formation. Notwithstanding the fact that references to Glissant's oeuvre appear in The Other America from beginning to end. This suggestion travels no deeper than a mention of the glitch in Glissant's self-contradictory valorization of monologic racial discourse in Negritude. Along with a flourishing of mostly male postcolonial writers-Caryl Phillips. 1999. During the 1980s Kureishi first made his mark as a young Indo-Brit writer. to name a few-Kureishi fleshed out a panoply of black London types (conservative and radical. however. Hanif. straight and queer. Ben Okri. Jay is uncannily like Kureishi himself. For TheOtherAmericato have been a groundbreaking piece of scholarly work. accusing Kureishi of fictionalizing their family into a stereotype of alterity easily digested by the masses. foodianado and publisher Susan. Jay is a middle-class. In the end.CALLALOO de la relation (1990). Dash should have committed himself more to having the first and final say in his own book. Timothy Mo. Unlike Kureishi's earlier racially identified. Explosive-and justifiable-controversy surrounds the 1998 British best-seller Intimacy by Anglo/Indian Hanif Kureishi. Kureishi left his partner. not only must it have systematically waded through prior works on the Caribbean-which it has-but it also must have attempted to wrest itself from the epistemic soil in which it is rooted and from which it prospers-which it both has not and perhaps cannot. like Nina. and their twin boys for a twenty-three year-old who. (Kureishi's sister recently refuted certain of Intimacy's familial facts. as he puts it. whereas Kureishi has made a career out of creating mostly bisexual and biracial characters and has capitalized on his own bisexual charm and "dark" good looksappearing sexily on jacket covers and posing for Paul Smith at fashion shows and magazinesJay is oblivious to his racial identity. Intimacy records a sour night in the life of Jay-a fortysomething man who. Scribner. the voice of Intimacy sounds like a whining combination of beat-your-male-drum-in-the-woods Robert Bly and I'm-a-poor-uptown-whiteboy Martin Amis. Tracy Scoffield. bisexual. the novel weighs heavy with macho attitude. He's a successful writer and scenarist who makes a healthy income adapting books. Nina. Bangladeshis) that 1097 . and Salman Rushdie. he hints that he might hook back up with his erstwhile twentysomething love-interest. West Indians. Oddly. is a "skirt I want to lift up" (15). Jay is a mixed Anglo and Indian Brit who hails from suburban working-class roots: Jay's father's a clerk and his mother's a factory worker. heterosexual misogynist whose greatest transgression is that he simply wants out: He craves the world-a world that. leaves his partner.

at times. and insulted by other children . I hate my children. in the Bangladeshi-populated Brick Lane.. Brixton. Because of his confused hatred. Three people died and dozens were critically injured." We might ask why Kureishi's voice and attitude have suddenly shifted to almost completely deny the intersection of race and sexuality in the formation of the subaltern subject. Thatcher passed Section 28 of the Local Government Act (1987)-an act that criminalized queers and lesbians.. For example. Jay has internalized the fantasies of the black self as a degenerate other. internalizing the white mainstream's image of him as a violent black male subject who targets white women: "I could strike her [Susan]" (25). main characters struggle with their racial and bisexual identities during Thatcher's conservative muscle flexing. in a metaphor akin to Powell's. monstrous black man in need of containment." Jay is full of fear and hate. In the end. and subaltern women writers who've been picking up the Booker in the last fifteen years). National Front splinter groups like Combat 18 and White Wolves went out "fag-" and "wog-" bashing. So while we can read Jay's leaving of Susan as a simple act of sexism. lesbian. So how. even while Intimacy made the transatlantic crossing in February 1999. the racist hegemony acts from within as he controls and contains himself.. gay.. can we justify Kureishi's invention of Jay-a pathetic middle-class. home-made nail bombs were exploding in London's Afro-Caribbean enclave. hoped to be arrested by the police and charged with possession of an uncontrolled mind" (72). "I shoved strangers on the street. as diseased "foreign invaders. However. In My Beautiful Laundrette. Unlike Jay. So while an Anglo/Indian writer like Kureishi may sell enough books to merit an Atlantic crossing. for example. In the tube I pushed someone down the stairs. a well-known gay and lesbian pub. we can also see how this act-his fear of the "pulsation of feeling" (66)-represents the accumulation of years of self-hatred. while many more British othered authors and directors now have access to those representational arenas that powerfully shape the mainstream imagination (just take a look at the number of black. Kureishi came of age as a writer during a time when. we can finally say that black writers like Kureishi complicate the earlier race-focused narratives by.. as they must hate me" (82)-but again he can't explain why.. heterosexist black Brit in deep racial denial? Jay only mentions his Indian-ness very obliquely and identifies most with his white. then. almost completely sidestepping the racial and sexuality issues. commitment-deficient rogue friend. In spite of having "made it. and elsewhere. In My Beautiful Laundrettethe character Omar (called a "wog boy" 1098 . as in the case of Intimacy. Much representational turf has been won through black-authored resistance narratives in films. The Buddhaof Suburbia'sKarim Amir goes through puberty during an Enoch Powell era of racist oppression (Powell likened the ethnic subject to a contaminating "river of blood"). Like his characters. and The BlackAlbum. of being kicked. of annihilation" (27). the everyday street reality remains aflame with racist and heterosexist violent behavior. the racial and sexual climate of the late 1990s differs from that of the 1980s. of the complicated Other-phobia present in a fin-de-siecle London? Paradoxically.Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. and in the Admiral Duncan. but he can't quite say why: "My childhood still tastes of fear. Jay fears himself and his family. Perhaps.CALLALOO challenged mainstream ideas of blackness in a largely racist and homophobic Britain. abused. He hates his family-"At times I hated my father. referring to them. Is Kureishi uncritically reproducing the mind of a race-oblivious uber-macho? Or could this be Kureishi's subtle critique. and this fantasy literalizes as he becomes the pathologically coded. Victor. Kureishi's earlier characters identify as black British and dare to transgress sexual and racial borders. novels. via Jay's internalized racism and sexism. and the British gay-focused TV soap Queeras Folktook over the number-one prime time spot. Have the times changed that much? Certainly. then. and rage. Intimacy reveals Kureishi at his most naked and complex. fear. perhaps. He is afraid..

middle-class hegemony. The Black Album's narrator describes Prince as "half black and half white. And in The BlackAlbum Shahid comes to into a critical awareness of his own internalized racism: "I wanted to become a racist. Chinks. however. certain ways in which black men continue to live out their counteridentities as black masculinities and replay those fantasies of black masculinity in the tethers of popular culture are. the harvesting of misery" (73). Shahid. And it's hard to stomach lines such as "there are some fucks for which a man would watch his wife and children drown in a freezing sea" (91) and detailed descriptions of 1099 . Even when he comes close to crossing sexual borders. I liked being handled by men.. long smooth legs and the way women dressed" (55). embodies "the cultural constructedness the sexual roles and identities we inhabit" (141). when viewed from along other axes of difference. This isn't to let Kureishi. My mind was invaded by killing-nigger fantasies. sharply crafted prose spotlights that murky. half woman. feminine but macho too" (21). but his waxing poetic easily turns into self-indulgent drivel: "What a job. fingers-up my arse. for his lover. male/female polarities: "I liked strong bodies and the backs of boys' necks. Irish. off the hook. confused area of black male identity not many have the courage to take on. becomes the object of Jay's fascination in the end. Kureishi's sentences might hum with an honest vitality. Jay's critical insights remain much like the following: "There are some fucks for which a man would watch his wife and children drown in a freezing sea" (91).. pens. or Jay. Nina. and the body of the white woman. that claim visibility for their hardness only at the expense of the vulnerability of black women and the feminization of gay black men. half man. Kureishi takes a bold step away from liberalist multiculti expectations. (31) For example. Shahid... Heterosexual panic snaps into place. Jay's story (which is also Kureishi's) provides a representation alternative to the Black-British subject as de facto resistant to and transgressive of a white. offering an alternative to the confining gender and sexual types Jay identifies with. As black cultural critic Stuart Hall explains in "What is this Black in Black Popular Culture?": . like Prince and unlike Jay. and I liked objects-the ends of brushes. Jay is not a character to celebrate.CALLALOO and told to "get back to the jungle") takes a white ex-National Fronter. Kureishi's Intimacy might not be the race-and-sexuality-focused novel we've come to expect-and that is still needed-in an ultra-conservative.. half size. "to the English we were always wogs and nigs and Pakis and the rest of it" (53). heterosexual identified Anglo/Indian character who is full of contradiction and short-sighted stupidity. New Right Britain. all of women's softness. But I liked cunts and breasts. Of going around abusing Pakis.. unlike Shahid or Karim. Kureishi serves up a middle-class. any foreign scum" (8-9). where Jay identifies with macho role models-the woman-abusing Victor. the very masculine identities that are oppressive to women. So where Omar resists sexual categories and Amir and Shahid come into a self-awareness of their blackness. Jay's intimations of a transgressive same-sex desire are cut short. Johnny. their fists pulling me.. " white and black. a character like Shahid identifies with the musician-artist Prince. Certainly. as when he lingers for a little too long on his "young gay friend's" emotionless sex life and talks of Victor's "lovely helplessness" (45) with more than a casual interest. niggers. heterosexist. In The BlackAlbum Karim Amir announces.. as Kobena Mercer writes generally of artists like of Prince. To his credit. straight and bent. yet his strong bisexual identification allows him to resist the heterosexist controlling structures that contain gay/straight. becomes a character that is both "soft" and "tough. terse. his bold.

CALLALOO Jay's masturbatory transgression. Welcometo the Jungle." Observer10 May 1999: 18. Gina Dent. 1994. but only as an unthreatening. 1100 . 1998. London: Routledge. Hall. "What is This 'Black" in Black Popular Culture?" Ed. Black Popular Culture. Intimacy remains a powerful record of the political unconscious of a fin-de-siecle otherness. Outlawed desire can exist. Kureishi's figuration of Jay as a sentimental onlooker of gay sexual politics simply reproduces the current trends that contain queers and lesbians by hyping same-sex sexuality as a fashionable Look-and not a permanent reality with very real consequences. Finally. Cressida. 1995. Kureishi. That Kureishi spilled the novel out in a month might speak less to his coming to terms with his behavior than provide a testimony of his intimate scrape with a contradictory black and white. Kobena. fantasized alternative to heterosexuality. straight and bent. misogynistic slights of hand merit those critical responses that identify him as a self-obsessed wanker (The Edge) and Intimacy "a repugnant little book [filled with] such callousness [it] verges on the psychotic" (Connolly 18). In all of its mixed-upness. 131-70. British political unconscious. Mercer. "Marred with Children. Hanif. The BlackAlbum. Frederick Luis Aldama Stanford University WORKS CITED Connolly. the black middle-class male subject can exist in a dominant white mainstream but only as a non-member that must deny racial heritage and violently vent against women. 21-33. Stuart. New York: The New Press. London: Faber and Faber. Kureishi's self-centered.

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