Regret, rancour, despair – and the creative urge – are to the fore in this often poignant, sometimes mesmerising collection of essays and short fiction

A grinding, persuasive power binds this collection of short fiction and essays, many of which have been published elsewhere in the past two or three years.

It’s achieved without much charm or humour or prettiness. In an early story, The Racer (about a warring married couple – a favourite Kureishi subject), an exhausted runner reaches the brow of an urban street to be confronted by “the vast surprise of the river”. It’s an elegant, crisp image, but you could wait all day for another. In his impatience to get to matters of the mind, Kureishi is determined to avoid the merely pleasing. More often, characters are ushered on stage to bombard one another with lumps of argument, or thrown into dystopian hells to expose the membrane of civilisation that separates us from our real, unattractive selves.

Related: Hanif Kureishi: Knock, knock, it’s Enoch

Related: Author Hanif Kureishi loses life savings to suspected fraud

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