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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wednesday, 3rd August - The body and other Stories by Hanif Kureishi (chosen by Fra)

Hanif Kureishi’s book of short stories, published in 2003 ... includes a novella, The Body, (126p) which makes up half of the book. Our discussion focused mainly on The Body as there were so many issues to be explored. The other short stories are well written, each unique, and there were mixed feelings from the group as to whether the stories supported the theme of The Body or not. Reading The Body left most of us feeling rather uncomfortable but it also brought up fascinating issues for discussion. The stories that followed  The Body were easier to handle and more enjoyable to read. We wondered how much of the author's writing is based on his own life. The following interview read out to us by Fra was quite enlightening.

Discussion centred around these questions:

1.      Kureishi uses a relatively little-used form, the novella, for The Body. Do you enjoy this form of literature, or would you have preferred another form? Or is the form immaterial? Do you think the author made the right choice in writing The Body as a novella rather than as a film script? How well do the stories in the book support The Body

2.     “Kureishi’s fiction is marked by a strong interest in how the raw physical natures of our bodies exert their presence in relationships.” Do you think ‘lesser’ changes, such as cosmetic surgery, have the power to affect relationships? Can bodily improvements effect improvements in Adam’s age? Is it possible for any of us to separate identity and character from our physical appearance and how desirable we imagine ourselves to be?

3.      Does the way Adam/Leo chooses to use his new-found youth surprise you? Would you have expected him to want to achieve something socially, or to develop his art? Why do you think he chooses not to involve the wife he loves in his new life? Why do you think you would use another ‘go’ at youth, if given the opportunity?

4.     “It hadn’t occurred to me that if I wanted to begin again as a human being. It would be as a father.” Says Leo, “or that I would have more energy with which to miss my children living at home, their voices as I entered the house, their concerns and possessions scattered everywhere.” How strongly does Leo’s yearning for fatherhood affect his actions and the development of the plot?

5.      Jason Cowley says that “It is hard to explain why exactly Hanif Kureishi is such a good writer, because his sentences are often very ordinary. “ What is your response to that comment? How would you describe his writing style and its strengths and weaknesses?

6.      Identify themes often underlie Kureishi’s books. In The Body, Leo has adequate money to live on from his former life but is living in a gay man’s body. How significant are the challenges to his identity? How would you compare them to, say, the challenge of being a black man Newbody, or a woman? How well does Leo deal with them, and what does he achieve from the experience?

7.     The conclusion of The Body suggests a thriller unfolding. How significant is this aspect of the novella, and how well integrated is it? Why do you think Kureishi chose to end the narrative in this way? Do you want to know what happens to Leo after the novella’s ending?

Video Links:
(Has an introduction on Kureishi .. about 1.5mins with pictures just before the interview resumes)

Other interviews:
Audio Interview - bbc  with Hanif Kureishi on The Body (7:44)

  • Discussion began to digress into  plastic surgery and preoccupation with "the self".  (Going back again to The Body) .... a question was asked -Would you swap your body if you could? (Thoughts turned  back to the book and .... "Just imagine picking a body hanging off a hook?" # heads shaking in disgust # (Then once again back to Plastic Surgery ) -We started to talk about plastic surgery in Brazil, China and Iran.

  • A mini-discussion was held about

  • The cherries Fra brought were yummy!

  • Su had too much work on and was forced to leave early .......  :(

  • Also looking forward to Thoroughly Modern Millie - Some of us will be going to see this exciting production. 

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