Kerfe's Reviews > White Teeth

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
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's review
Jul 23, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction

A few chapters in I went back and checked the publication date--as I suspected, before 9/11. I think there is an innocence in this book that would not have been present in the same story set after that event.

Zadie Smith see both sides--the appeal and the pitfalls, the pull of community and continuity and the hypocrisy and cynicism--not just of Muslim fundamentalism, but of tradition and the past in all cultures, of both secular and religious extremism and intolerance, and of the insular smugness of those who ambivalently accomodate immigrants into their lives. But I wonder if she would equate Muslim extremism so closely with Jehovah's Witnesses--or intellectuals, or animal activists--as disruptive refuges for those lost or disappointed by life, were she writing the same story post-9/11. On the other hand, perhaps the sense of getting in over one's head while attempting to escape drowning in the reality and randomness of uncertainty is even more applicable to the extreme violence that has resulted.

I found the first 1/3 of the book tedious, but I'm glad I stuck it out. The interactions of the native and the immigrant, the conqueror and the conquered, through generations and cultural upheavals and clashes, the neverending balancing act of the intellectual and the spiritual, and the pull of both past and future, possible and actual, make for appealing characters with parallel and colliding struggles that move the story to a surprising yet inevitable convergence and conclusion.

Is it chance, fate, destiny--who knows? It's messy, and we're all making it up as we go along.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Vivienne I just finished reviewing this book for my livejournal and I also picked up on this themes of how the idea of KEVIN struck a rather darker note post 9/11 (and 07/07) than it probably did when the book was written.

Kerfe It does seem religion and race get more and more complicated.

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