Addie's Reviews > On Beauty

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
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Nov 02, 07

Recommended for: anyone
Read in September, 2007

just as my idealized fantasies about academic life were getting a little out of control, the characters in this book come along to make me realize academics can be just as gross as lawyers at times. i also realize i have never read a book about a professor-family before.

in the middle of the book, i told someone that i didn't like any of the characters (except for levi, who is amazing), yet i liked the book - which speaks well for the author. by the end, i liked the characters more. the black characters i think intentionally represent a really varied spectrum of black "types", though i think some of them were less well-developed than i wish they had been. i felt this was sometimes about kiki, and also about chantelle. but she did such a great job with levi -- the one most likely to be caricatured - that i forgive it. i haven't read white teeth, but several people i know like this book better. it's the kind of book that probably merits a second read because of all of its layers, a welcome change from the semi-crap i have been reading.

another reviewer said that zadie smith can't quite get the hang of american english dialogue. i did notice this a little bit. in particular, all characters would very often say "et cetera" in casual conversation. who says that? and her urban-black-boston characters would say that things were "scene" [instead of cool:], which - again - i have never heard.
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message 1: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie People say things are "scene" all the time in Tennessee, but here it's more of a way to hint at sarcasm when discussing something's coolness, since most logical people don't think of themselves as "scene." Like if a young guy has just the hippest looking side swept bangs, wears converse, skinny jeans, a v-neck tee, and a beret while drinking starbucks and reading Nietzsche....one might look at him and say, "look at how scene that guy is." It's generally used in a derogatory sense by people with low self-confidence, but the guy described might actually take it as a compliment. Everybody wins.


Kate I just thought "scene" was a verbal tic of Levi's-- something he was trying and failing to get other people to say. Did other people actually say it?


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