In this collection of short stories, Kureishi deconstructs instances of love and hate with skilful tenacity. Although it sometimes takes him a little longer than other short story writers to reveal the true nature of his characters, once he has done so the story that unfolds is often full of enjoyment for the reader. I particularly liked his regular character (although it takes different forms) of the loser, the unemployed waster who leeches off his friends and is what some would describe as a menace, others a genius. Kureishi is particularly good at humanising this kind of individual – and it works well in this collection.
We follow the adventures of adulterers seeking revenge, an amateur pornographer and his models, a couple with an alarmingly severe moth infestation which causes the disintegration of their marriage and their soft furnishings, and a drug abuser persistently abandoned by her supposed loved ones. These are just a handful of examples to demonstrate the richness and diversity of this collection’s cast. Every one of them could be any one of us, Kureishi seems to say, because we’ve all got problems. Most of these can be distilled to problems of love and hate. Far from being polar opposites or two sides of the same coin, love and hate are much more closely entwined – a fact that this collection exposes dramatically. That is an affecting sentiment.