Saturday, March 7, 2009

On Beauty

Zadie Smith's writing technique is fresh and funny. I particularly enjoy the physical descriptions of her characters:
  • "When placed next to men of his own age and class, he has two great advantages: hair and weight... he has easily the most hair of any fellow there."
  • "...long before Victoria arrived in the house, he was already in love. It was only that his general ardour for the family found its correct, specific vessel in Victoria - right age, right gender, and as beautiful as the idea of God."
  • "And all that time, while he spoke, and she tried, bewilderingly, to listen, his face was doing its silent voodoo on her, just as it seemed to work on everybody passing by him in this archway."

Her wry sense of humour had me laughing out loud in places:
  • "Monty's Rembrant book... had the great advantage of being bound between hard covers and distributed throughout the English speaking world, whereas Howard's book on the same topic remained unfinished and strewn across the floor.."
  • "(At her university) Zora was extremely fond of scheduling meetings about her future with important people for whom her future was not really a top priority. The more people were informed of her plans the more real they became to her."

This was not a unanimous favourite in my book club, but those of us that liked it, really liked it.

Some people see this novel as a commentary on racism, which it certainly touches on; but to me it seems to speak more of culture and class and the nature of physical beauty. What brings us together, what tears us apart.

Beautifully written!

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