I imagine that to participate in the world with curiosity and pleasure, to see the point of what is going on, you have to be young and uninformed. Do I want to participate?
This is an incredibly compelling novel from Kent-born Hanif (who proves himself to be ever-the-philosopher), which is subsequently accompanied by seven of his shorter stories that have previously appeared in other publications such as Granta and The New Yorker.
After a bit you realise there's only one invaluable commodity. Not gold or love, but time.
The Body is the main story and by far and away the most exciting, which
centers on a man who feels old before his time.
His body is frail and slow but his mind is as curious and active as ever,
so when a unique opportunity to have his brain transplanted into a younger body,
he can't resist and proceeds to essentially swap bodies and re-live
his youth, armed and enthused with his years of acquired wisdom.
I wanted to live less in my mind.
Of course, the premise might seem a little ridiculous, but Hanif's writing style ensures
that you go along with the story without asking questions as the author carefully
weighs up the pros and cons of doing what this man does.
In truth, such a thing as a brain transplant into another body isn't that
alien a concept. Look at what scientists are doing today along the understandably
controversial lines of human cloning, and you'll realise that such a
premise could one day become reality.
Still, in The Body the cons definitely outweigh the pros,
and the experiment soon becomes a living nightmare that's brought horrifyingly
to life, as the man who's had the brain transplant soon finds that his new body
is in demand from other people who would like to follow in his footsteps, so to
speak.. and will even be prepared to kill him in order to get their grubby hands on his body.
This unexpected plot twist thus forces the story to drift from its surreal
drama-orientated origins into a full-blown race-against-time thriller,
and all in a fabulously exhilarating manner too.
There was no day of judgement, when a person's life would be evaluated,
the good and the bad, in separate piles. No day but every day.
During the shorter stories, such as in the one entitled Face To Face,
far more mundane and everyday issues are dealt with in an interesting and original
manner, as Hanif gets under the skin of how individuals in families tend
to co-operate (or not) with each other.
Some of the stories are bleak (such as Goodbye, Mother, which
follows a middle-aged man taking his elderly mother to visit his father's - her
late husband's - grave, which is both a humbling and subtly harrowing affair),
but in this way they are realistic, while some are streaked with quirky blasts
of satirical genius.
In essence, all eight stories as a collective whole ensure that this Body of
work really does make essential reading, delivered by this hugely respected,
award-winning British writer.
In the end, all that would remain of one's years would be the quality of one's
link with others, of how far one had gone with them.
ISBN 0-571-21777-X (first published in 2002 by Faber and Faber)
Reviews, Films - Five Children and It Reviewed by Ruth Wilson
The other day I went to the UGC cinema in Hull to see 5 Children and It.
It was a very good film, based on a book by E. Nesbit. It's about 5 children
(surprise, surprise! I can't remember their names, though!) who get sent to live
with their loopy uncle in the country during the
Kids, Reviews, Books - Freak-Outs and Very Secret Secrets by Karen McCombie Reviewed by Ruth Whitehouse
I have recently read a brilliant book called Friends, Freak-Outs and Very Secret Secrets by Karen McCombie,
a teenage book, part of the Ally's World Series. If you want me to be precise, it's number 4.
Now, onto the actual review. It is about a teenage girl called Ally who has a best
Reviews, Books - Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer Reviewed By Steve Rudd
Reaching the top of Everest is supposed to trigger a surge of intense elation; against
long odds, afterall, I had just attained a goal I'd coveted since childhood.
But the summit was really only the halfway point. Any impulse I might have felt toward
Reviews, Books - Down Under by Bill Bryson Reviewed By Steve Rudd
As I write this review it is the height of British summertime, and as I'm staring
outside the window at 8:30 PM it's almost black dark out there and pouring it down with rain.
Which is - to extents - to be expected, given the UK's terminally unpredictable climate.
Reviews, Films - Saw By Steve Rudd
As if there isn't enough sick and twisted violence out there in the real world as it is,
there are hordes of film-makers that feel that violence is the essential ingredient to
make a winning movie. To make their movie as violent as possible often seems
Reviews, Books - Travels in a Strange State by Josie Dew Reviewed By Steve Rudd
A man called Jonathan Raban once said, The only way to travel is to travel alone.
It opens you up to the world. It puts you in the way of luck and chance.
With such a sentiment Josie Dew whole-heartedly agrees, as do I.
This fantastically written book
Reviews, Theatre - Confessions Of A Hull City Supporter at Hull Truck By Nicholas Boldock
There must be few examples of award-winning playwrights penning an entire play to celebrate a
football team winning promotion, even if that promotion took 19 long years to arrive.
After Hull City won promotion from Division 3 last term, local writer Alan PlaterRead more...
Reviews, Books - Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris Reviewed By Steve Rudd
All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I'm afraid that
when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.
Which, I presume, means that Sedaris (who is both a highly respected playwright and
Reviews, Books - The Hard Shoulder by Chris Petit By Steve Rudd
Focusing on how a fresh-out-of-prison man copes and slowly re-adjusts to life on the outside,
The Hard Shoulder is an exceptional novel - and primarily enthralling for being both a
thriller and poignant drama.
O'Grady is the man who has been released from prison
Reviews, Books - Running With The Moon by Jonny Bealby By Steve Rudd
I was the pebble in the catapult, pulled back to breaking point, about to be sent hurtling
towards whatever destiny had in store. Total freedom. At that moment I wouldn't have
changed places with anyone. That's how Jonny Bealby felt upon arriving in
Africa with his friend
Reviews, Theatre - Confessions Of A Hull City Supporter at Hull Truck By Nick Quantrill
Written by Hull City fanatic, Alan Plater, and with male characters played by actors from Hull,
it would be easy to write this play off as being a parochial Fever Pitch.
Whilst it's definitely a home banker, the structure of the play holds enough laughs
to get a result away from home.