The penis and the pen

The Last Word

Hanif Kureishi, best known for his 1985 screenplay My Beautiful Laundrette and 1990 novel The Buddha of Suburbia, takes on men behaving quite badly in The Last Word (Scribner: $25), which may or may not be a roman à clef about Patrick French's 2008 V.S. Naipaul biography. In The Last Word, a young-ish writer, Harry Johnson, is sent to ingratiate himself to well-known Indian-born author Mamoon Azam, in hopes of getting the dirt for a tell-all biography. But Harry's not quite the lost lamb he seems, and Mamoon knows a trick or two as well. Their ego battle royale gets progressively more satirical as the stakes get higher. There's nasty (and deliberately badly written) sex galore, which impresses with how closely the penis and the pen are in some literary circles, and more than a few jabs at the rarefied air at the top of the literary pile.