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3.7 out of 5 stars
18
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 21 December 2014
This is one of those rare books that I have read before albeit seventeen years ago when pretending to be an idealistic student. I liked it back then and I love it now.

It tells the tale of Shahid, a British late-teenager of Pakistani origins and his desire to open his mind through reading and study at a run down, London college. There, he meets several people of huge, conflicting influence on his life. Deedee, a college lecturer, a child of the liberal sixties, stimulates both his mind and body, not always legally one might add. He also meets a group of more extreme muslim students and it is the conflict of satisfying Deedee and this group that is a central theme of this book. This is most evident in the issue of the fatwa issued on Salman Rushdie for his book, 'The Satanic Verses'. The group is determined to support the fatwa and hold their own book-burning session while Shahid wrestles with himself over this arguing several times that we should not be afraid of the written word and instead use it to challenge ourselves regularly.

What makes this book more fascinating for me this time around is the fact that I read it both before and after 9/11. It makes it so relevant and interesting and is a depiction of a small part of the timeline that lead up to that awful day.

This book is an absolute must for all lover of literature, no matter what the genre, to read. The book is not without Kureishi's sense of humour and his support for Shahid and his intellectual dilemmas is clear to see.
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on 30 March 2010
I bought this book as "The Buddha of Suburbia" (also by Kureishi) which I had intended to buy, was not in stock.

The cover blurb seemed good, promising an insight into modern issues of multiculturalism in Britain.

Sadly, the cover really is the best bit. The main characters are one-dimensional, and you can easily tell what each of them is going to do before you read it. The plot which these characters inhabit lurches about violently, leaving the reader feeling disconnected from the story. The main protagonist (and indeed, most characters in the book) are pretty unpleasant, and it is hard to feel empathy with them, or the situations they get themselves into. The depiction of London is of a trashy, drug-riddled waste ground devoid of dignity or hope (I know London is no utopia, but really it isn't THIS bad)

The main sticking point though, is that the multicultural issues are not addressed, just talked around or used to ignite another (predictable) confrontation. I really did want to like this book, and to get some newer understanding of a complex issue from it, however, it isn't likeable or complex in itself.

On the plus side, there are vivid little scenes that mad me laugh out loud, so 2 stars overall, but, I would not recommend it.

I noticed that "Buddha of Suburbia" is now back in stock - I will give this a go and hopefully see Kureishi in a more favourable light
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on 9 January 2015
So you’re an Asian young man in London for the first time. What do you find? A strip club. A launderette where they steal your clothes. Not a promising start is it? Nobody knows who you are beyond merely the colour of your skin.

Nor is it to be in a house where the neighbours post lighted rags through the letter box, smash the windows and generally terrorised you because you are Asian. Yet this happened a lot and groups of bodyguards grew up to help and sit with these people.

No wonder Muslims retreat in the need to belong, caught between East and West.
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on 28 December 1999
The life experiences of young second generation British Asians are rather familiar Kureishi territory and sad to say this book panders to stereotype rather too much, especially in the depiction of the extremist Muslim characters which are crude and one-dimensional. The dialogue too is sometimes clumsy and unbelievable, and the novel's discussion of literature borders on the pretentious. On the positive side, however, the various clashes evident in Shahid's personality are drawn out for all they are worth and it is clear the author has real insight into the problem of confused cultural identity, which allows for an interesting examination of the psychology of Shahid's tentative rejection of Western values.
NK
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on 3 November 2014
The message was a warning about young men today
I now think about how the movement grows in the West.
I read it but kept putting it down.
full of extraneous description.
Worth reading
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on 31 March 2001
This book is about issues which are very alien to most western readers. Islam is seen by the west to be linked to terrorism and violence, but this book deals with the effect of islamic fundementalism in a different way. I read this book when i was in iran and the choices which the main protagonist must face between the 'free' western hedonistic attitude as represented by dedee, and the opposing islamic ideals seem very real. The fall of the Berlin Wall has nothing to do with this idea and personal struggle, the islamic reveloution in iran, which Kureshi mentions in the book is one of the 'current issues' which is most important in the influence of the idealistic chracters. This is a story about being muslim, and more importantly being a muslim who has grown up with fundimentally western attitudes and ideas. The style may seem confused at times, but is only seems to be reflecting the confusion felt by almost every one of it's charaters, through the clash of an increasingly hedonistic west, verses the upheval and re-exploration of islam in the modern world.
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on 19 September 2007
Kureishi has brought up a number of issues which British-Asians go through everyday. His story has a number of twists and turns which keeps the reader captivated throughout from the main character's personal struggles Kureishi revisits territory familiar from his film-script "My Beautiful Laundrette" and his debut novel "The Buddha of Suburbia". A highly relevant story on multi-culturalism and the 'state of the nation' during the Thatcher years, focusing on relations between races and the predicament of British youth. More specifically it engages with the controversies surrounding the imposition of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie in 1989. Pre-occupied with popular culture and music, the novel takes it title from an album by Prince. Price is a key symbol within the text of the enabling potential of cultural hybridism in expanding received models of national and ethnic identity, thus challenging the fundamentalist of metropolitan racism and 3rd world politics alike. Recommended read!
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on 1 January 2005
I loved this book and found it well written and pertinent to many of the issues of a multicultural society. It addresses the problems of growing up as a British Asian and the tension between traditional and liberal values. It is very relevant to these days of cultural antagonism and also very amusing and touching. I think everyone should read this book. The plot is not confusing and the story is relevant to our times.
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on 14 July 2003
Compared to "The Buddha of suburbia", I felt "The black album" was a little overconstructed, self-conscious and the plot was maybe a bit farfetched. It lacked some of the lightness and humour which I really liked in "The Buddha..."
Still, this is a fine novel about identity and multiculturalism. Clever, straightforward, sparkling.
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on 26 January 1999
He's got style, but not in any exagerated sense. And anyway its the material that grabs you. Very human- the material, his characters aren't so much out of the ordinary, but Kureishi wrings out of them these cooly intense, never contrived kinds of feelings. More importantly I'm 22, Eritrean, grew up in CA, and I don't think I've ever read a book that made this kind of a connection with me. Anyway I think a lot of you displaced foreign born kids out there will really be vibing with his stuff.
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