Midnight All Day By Hanif Kureishi

Midnight All Day is a collection of short stories by Hanif Kureishi, an author whose characters often approach the low life, usually without ever actually attaining it. These stories are of variable quality, ranging from excellent to rather mundane, though they are all eminently readable, well written and well constructed. Sometimes, however, there’s just a bit too much incestuous involvement with the media. There are just a few too many writers, actors, television and film people around. One can understand why the author might meet a number of such people, but repeated use of media settings does occasionally detract from his story telling.

Despite this criticism, the characters are acutely drawn, interesting, engaging and are utterly credible. They tend to stumble or shamble through their lives from one opportunity to the next mistake, initiating and terminating relationships. Despite their tendency to write about or enact other characters, they often display very little facility for introspection. They often resort to their bottles or recreational drugs and treat sex as if it were a challenge.

So the stories deal with late twentieth century British professional middle classes, whose careers are always on top until they are bust, whose fortunes are always up until they crash, and whose relationships are always idyllic until they are failed.

Hanif Kureishi has a keen eye for the character of eighties and nineties Britain and on several occasions one feels implicitly that his subjects would not dream of discussing their woes with their parents. They are a generation apart, convinced by the illusion that they are special, that they live in a new era that owes nothing to any past. They are confident yet vulnerable, assertive yet indecisive, committed yet utterly ephemeral. There are occasions when these characteristics are a little overstated, but overall this is a moving and memorable collection which is probably best read one story at a time, rather than cover to cover.

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