Johnny's Reviews > White Teeth

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
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's review
Sep 03, 10

bookshelves: race, fiction, satire
Read from July 30 to September 03, 2010

A few months ago I was complaining to a friend that all the really "epic" contemporary books out there, the ones that leave your head spinning because you can't fathom how the author so elegantly keeps so many plates spinning at once, are all written by white men, novels from authors like John Irving and Richard Russo. This friend then told me I simply had to read White Teeth, which she felt fit the bill and is written by a black woman.

The opening of the novel left me totally satisfied. After the first few chapters though, my delight waned with a slight feeling of confusion due to Smith's tunneling technique of connecting present to past, minor character to major. Once I had acclimated myself to her style though, I quickly regained my earlier excitement. As I dove deeper into the text, I found hints of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and Joseph Heller's Catch-22 in Smith's biting critique of everything that makes up Western society and a mixture of nods to other classic and popular samples of British literature. The literary equation she lays out is an interesting blend of risque imagery, offensive humor, and heart-breaking realities.

Many friends warned me that the ending "jumped the shark" a bit, and I have to agree that I was right there with Smith up until the final page, where I found myself wondering, "Where's the rest of the ending?" The journey there though was really fantastic, and I am anxious to read more of Smith's work!
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Quotes Johnny Liked

Zadie Smith
“Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth
tags: apt

Zadie Smith
“If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“This is what divorce is: taking things you no longer want from people you no longer love.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“Generally, women can't do this, but men retain the ancient ability to leave a family and a past. They just unhook themselves, like removing a fake beard, and skulk discreetly back into society, changed men. Unrecognizable.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“...at any time of the day, corduroy is a highly stressful fabric. Rent collectors wear it. Tax collectors, too. History teachers add leather elbow patches.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“For ridding oneself of faith is like boiling seawater to retrieve the salt--something is gained but something is lost.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
Please. Do me this one, great favor, Jones. If ever you hear anyone, when you are back home...if ever you hear anyone speak of the East," and here his voice plummeted a register, and the tone was full and sad, "hold your judgment. If you are told 'they are all this' or 'they do this' or 'their opinions are these,' withhold your judgment until all the facts are upon you. Because that land they call 'India' goes by a thousand names and is populated by millions, and if you think you have found two men the same among that multitude, then you are mistaken. It is merely a trick of the moonlight.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“Our children will be born of our actions. Our accidents will become their destinies. Oh, the actions will remain. It is a simple matter of what you will do when the chips are down, my friend. When the fat lady is singing. When the walls are falling in, and the sky is dark, and the ground is rumbling. In that moment our actions will define us. And it makes no difference whether you are being watched by Allah, Jesus, Buddah, or whether you are not. On cold days a man can see his breath, on a hot day he can't. On both occasions, the man breathes.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“You are never stronger...than when you land on the other side of despair.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Zadie Smith
“I cannot believe homosexuality is that much fun. Heterosexuality certainly is not.”
Zadie Smith, White Teeth


Reading Progress

07/31/2010
5.0% "I already love this book."
08/08/2010
22.0% "Not loving the war stuff..."
08/15/2010
49.0% "Taking a break to delve into my super challenging "classic" book club selection."
08/21/2010
57.0% "The Sound and the Fury is so difficult to read that I simply had to come back to White Teeth for a bit!"
08/30/2010
78.0% "Madly trying to finish before school starts!"
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