Books I Loathed discussion

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Loathed Titles > On Beauty

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message 1: by Aimee (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Aimee | 8 comments I Can't get into Zadie Smith.

All I ever hear is "That Zadie Smith...she's brilliant"

I got about halfway through On Beauty before I realized how much I couldn't stand it.

Maybe she is a good writer.
Maybe her characters are realistic.

But whatever she is, and whatever she is capable of, leaves a nasty taste in my mouth that I can't quite stomach.

What grain are you against?


message 2: by Recynd (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Recynd I hated "Wicked"...there was something dishonest-feeling about it; I also didn't care for the Philosophy 101 overload.

I know there's a slew of other books I either loved or hated, contrary to everyone else...naturally, I can't think of a single one at the moment...


message 3: by Kristin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Kristin I read White Teeth and felt the same way. Okay, not a bad read, but not brilliant. And the fact that everyone calls her so just adds to my disgust. I tried again with the Autograph Man, thinking that maybe the whole multi-generational element (which I detest in novels) was what set me against White Teeth. No luck. She's not an idiot, her books aren't overly plot-driven or really obvious, but what else can you really say about her? There's certainly never one of those moments of clarity where you realize how much she "got it" in her writing. And there aren't any passages that are just beautiful to read, lyrical, really making the most of the English language. And, the "got it" and the "oh, pretty words" are kind of my standards of good writing.

You know who I also feel this way about, but who is more obviously a not great writer? Benjamin Kunkel. His book Indecision was sentimental tripe. And yet his journal n+1 is pretty decent.

I came to the conclusion that Zadie, and Ben, are touted as the brilliant writers they are because they're both so pretty. And that's pretty fucking repulsive!


message 4: by Sarah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Sarah (songgirl7) Recynd, I wasn't a big fan of Wicked either... you mean Maguire's Wicked, right? I think my problem was that I'd seen the musical and was expecting a cute, light, frothy fairy tale and got an Animal orgy instead.


message 5: by Jason (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Jason (gireesh42) After I read On Beauty (and vowed not to read anything else by her), I stumbled across an article in which her ability to imitate styles was commented on. She's a very smart writer, the article commented, but not entirely original, revealing her education in her writing but not necessarily her creativity. this was the criticism I hadn't been able to voice as I read and finished On Beauty. Now I realize that's exactly what I didn't like...it was a little too..."pretty"... I suppose that is a great way of putting it, Kristin.

This leads me into a dilemma, though. Because in contrast to Smith, there are a lot of new young writers who play with the novel form with as much creativity as she doesn't use. And I don't like a lot of these guys either! What is it about the contemporary writers I enjoy that sets them apart from writers like Smith and her opposites? i'm not really sure...i dunno if that was clear at all...


message 6: by Melody (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Melody (runningtune) I've read White Teeth (a book group selection), I atempted Autograph Man (a gift from my husband - I'm sure he found it on sale somewhere and remembered me reading White Teeth and I must not have complained loudly enough when I was reading it so he didn't know I didn't like Zadie Smith), and On Beauty (another book group selection). I detested White Teeth, couldn't finish Autograph Man, and of the three, On Beauty was the least hated. I tried to decide what it was that made me dislike Zadie Smith's writing so much. I think it is because she goes into such detail about stuff that is just NOT INTERESTING and then she has the family in On Beauty supposedly serving soul food at their party and then describes the little quiches they're serving their guests. It just burned me up.


message 7: by Esther (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:40PM) (new)

Esther (eshchory) Having read White Teeth I decided to have pity on myself so swore never to read Zadie Smith again.

The booked dragged terribly especially towards the end and i felt I was slogging through it rather than enjoying the reading experience.

This is a pity as certain elements such the beginning scene, the discussions with the lesbian niece and the brothers Ahmed were not only clever but also quite funny.

My impression is that Zadie Smith started a novel because she had always been told she wrote well. And it is true that she can produce an amusing turn of phrase and entertaining dialogue.

However as a literary student she felt it incumbent upon her to write something 'significant' rather than the light, humourous novel which would have been so much better suited to her talents.

Half way through she became bored and also realised that she was at the end of her plot with no resolution in sight. She battled on to the end but the effort of completion stretched her skill beyond its snapping point thus her writing style because stodgy and lost most of its irony and humour.


message 8: by Aimee (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:40PM) (new)

Aimee | 8 comments I agree. There were certain aspects of On Beauty that I liked. I would have really enjoyed following the daughter's experience, or even the son's for that matter, but the Parents were too ridiculous to be tolerated and they were the focal point of the book. They were both really unlikable characters, which was a shame, because there could have been some real potential.

To me it just seemed she was trying to hard to make the characters "human" by flawing them so much to the point they became sub-human, in my mind.


message 9: by Aimee (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:40PM) (new)

Aimee | 8 comments Oh, and I did happen to be a big fan of Wicked, I really enjoy all of Maguire's work, but I had never seen the musical so I could see how that would have affected my view of it.

I still haven't seen it, but I can guess how different it is from the book. n fact, lots of people who have seen the musical, have asked me to borrow the book and I have always given them a caveat that it is nothing like the play, neither in tone nor form. It's very political and a bit vulgar.

They ESPECIALLY do not want to read it's sequel, Son of a Witch...


message 10: by Conrad (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

Conrad | 9 comments Wow, I can't help being surprised at all the Zadie Smith hatred floating around. I didn't really like White Teeth, which seemed badly stitched, but I loved On Beauty. I didn't think there was a boring sentence in the entire book, and I was glad Smith brought her empathy to bear on the foibles of American academia.

I didn't think the parents were all that unlikeable, only the men, and even they certainly weren't "subhuman." They weren't rapists or genocidal or greedy. At worst they wanted attention, were disloyal, and weren't happy with their own very privileged lives; to call that subhuman is going a little too far, I think. And what the hell did Kiki do that was so bad?!

The connection that Levi develops with the Haitian immigrants he fetishizes was a really great subplot, too. And the poetry professor was likewise hilarious. I guess I just don't get why people didn't like this book. It seems to have a lot to do with the hysteria that greeted White Teeth, which was admittedly mediocre.


message 11: by Tanti (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:43PM) (new)

Tanti If a book makes you fall asleep after about 20 pages and you put it away, does it mean you loath it? That's the effect that On Beauty had on me.


message 12: by Jan (new)

Jan | 5 comments I listened to "On Beauty" as a recorded book and almost veered into the other lane while listening to it because:

The characters' WHINING drove me crazy

The characters' SUPERIORITY drove me crazy

It was long long long.

I don't know why I finished it except so I could say I do or else I was driving somewhere very far away. Eerk.


message 13: by Homar (new)

Homar Solano | 1 comments My name is Homar Solano and I have published "Enchanted Moon" available in Kindle Edition at amazon.com Enchanted Moon


message 14: by Maggie (last edited Feb 15, 2012 04:15AM) (new)

Maggie | 32 comments I really disliked On Beauty - in fact I gave up and gave it away! (I don't give up on books very often!). White Teeth was good to a point - about two thirds in I just gave up. Autograph Man I didn't even start! I really don't understand the adulation of Zadie Smith's writing - there are far better writers out there.


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