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On Beauty: A Novelby Zadie Smith
Winner of the 2006 Orange Prize
2006 Morning News Tournament of Books Nominee
"Smith displays all her strengths: satirical energy, imaginative breadth (she's equally engaging about the inner lives of a teenage boy and a middle-aged mother), and a sure and funny touch with jumbled ethnicities....[T]here's no doubting the artistic conviction that underlies this unabashedly conventional novel. It's hard to say what Horace or Leopardi would have made of On Beauty, but it might well have amused Forster, at least." Joseph O'Neill, Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Finally On Beauty is an odd mixture — alternately amusing, perceptive, even emotionally absorbing, with some of the narrative zest of White Teeth, and then too often schematic, insistent, or simply not quite credible. The American academic setting, which Smith knows but perhaps not well enough, and the emulation of Howards End, which is an interesting idea that does not altogether fit this fictional world, may have led her astray." Robert Alter, the New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
Howard Belsey, a Rembrandt scholar who doesn't like Rembrandt, is an Englishman abroad and a long-suffering professor at Wellington, a liberal New England arts college. He has been married for thirty years to Kiki, an American woman who no longer resembles the sexy activist she once was. Their three children passionately pursue their own paths: Levi quests after authentic blackness, Zora believes that intellectuals can redeem everybody, and Jerome struggles to be a believer in a family of strict atheists. Faced with the oppressive enthusiasms of his children, Howard feels that the first two acts of his life are over and he has no clear plans for the finale. Or the encore.
Then Jerome, Howard's older son, falls for Victoria, the stunning daughter of the right-wing icon Monty Kipps, and the two families find themselves thrown together in a beautiful corner of America, enacting a cultural and personal war against the background of real wars that they barely register. An infidelity, a death, and a legacy set in motion a chain of events that sees all parties forced to examine the unarticulated assumptions which underpin their lives. How do you choose the work on which to spend your life? Why do you love the people you love? Do you really believe what you claim to? And what is the beautiful thing, and how far will you go to get it?
Set on both sides of the Atlantic, Zadie Smith's third novel is a brilliant analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, intersections of the personal and political, and an honest look at people's deceptions. It is also, as you might expect, very funny indeed.
"Truly human, fully ourselves, beautiful,' muses a character in Smith's third novel, an intrepid attempt to explore the sad stuff of adult life, 21st century — style: adultery, identity crises and emotional suffocation, interracial and intraracial global conflicts and religious zealotry. Like Smith's smash debut, White Teeth (2000), this work gathers narrative steam from the clash between two radically different families, with a plot that explicitly parallels Howards End. A failed romance between the evangelical son of the messy, liberal Belseys — Howard is Anglo-WASP and Kiki African-American — and the gorgeous daughter of the staid, conservative, Anglo-Caribbean Kipps leads to a soulful, transatlantic understanding between the families' matriarchs, Kiki and Carlene, even as their respective husbands, the art professors Howard and Monty, amass matriel for the culture wars at a fictional Massachusetts university. Meanwhile, Howard and Kiki must deal with Howard's extramarital affair, as their other son, Levi, moves from religion to politics. Everyone theorizes about art, and everyone searches for connections, sexual and otherwise. A very simple but very funny joke — that Howard, a Rembrandt scholar, hates Rembrandt — allows Smith to discourse majestically on some of the master's finest paintings. The articulate portrait of daughter Zora depicts the struggle to incorporate intellectual values into action. The elaborate Forster homage, as well as a too-neat alignment between characters, concerns and foils, threaten Smith's insightful probing of what makes life complicated (and beautiful), but those insights eventually add up. 'There is such a shelter in each other,' Carlene tells Kiki; it's a take on Forster's 'Only Connect — ,' but one that finds new substance here. Agent, Georgia Garett at A.P. Watt. (Sept. 13)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"In this sharp, engaging satire, beauty's only skin-deep, but funny cuts to the bone." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"[A] boisterous, funny, poignant, and erudite novel that should firmly establish Smith as a literary force of nature." Booklist
"Ms. Smith possesses a captivating authorial voice...and in these pages, she uses that voice to enormous effect, giving us that rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[A] splendid work....With fully realized characters and a kaleidoscope of provocative issues, Smith has created a world you can truly enter. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"While reading On Beauty it's easy to forget, and sometimes hard to believe, that Zadie Smith is scarcely out of her twenties. Her new novel is masterly on almost any level....E.M. Forster would be proud." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Smith has the gift of writing crackerjack dialogue....But On Beauty is too long-winded. Its actions, external and interior, don't always warrant its pages and pages of speech or description..." Boston Globe
"Chummy and big-hearted, it is also a tremendously good read, and those disappointed by...The Autograph Man will sink into it with relief....
"[S]plendid and bighearted....This is a 443-page novel you wish were longer — much longer — so that Smith could deepen her rich, marvelous story. (Grade: A-)" Entertainment Weekly
"She brings almost everything you want to the task: humor, brains, objectivity, equanimity, empathy, a pitch-perfect ear for smugness and cant, and then still more humor....On Beauty is that rare comic novel about the divisive cultural politics of the new century likely to amuse readers on the right as much as those on the left." Frank Rich, New York Times Book Review
Smith's third novel is an analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, and an honest look at people's deceptions. An infidelity, a death, and a legacy set in motion a chain of events that forces everyone to examine the assumptions which underpin their lives.
A brilliant, unforgettable novel from bestselling author Ruth Ozekiand#151;shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award
and#147;A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.and#8221;
In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided thereand#8217;s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmatesand#8217; bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun whoand#8217;s lived more than a century. A diary is Naoand#8217;s only solaceand#151;and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchboxand#151;possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Naoand#8217;s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Full of Ozekiand#8217;s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.
New York Times Ten Best Books of 2012
A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model Like Zadie Smiths much-acclaimed predecessor White Teeth (2000), NW is an urban epic.” --Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books
This is the story of a city.
The northwest corner of a city. Here youll find guests and hosts, those with power and those without it, people who live somewhere special and others who live nowhere at all. And many people in between.
Every city is like this. Cheek-by-jowl living. Separate worlds.
And then there are the visitations: the rare times a stranger crosses a threshold without permission or warning, causing a disruption in the whole system. Like the April afternoon a woman came to Leah Hanwells door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, forcing Leah out of her isolation
Zadie Smiths brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners - Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.
Depicting the modern urban zone familiar to town-dwellers everywhere Zadie Smiths NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.
About the Author
Zadie Smith was born in Northwest London in 1975 and still lives in the area. She is the author of White Teeth and The Autograph Man.
Table of Contents
Zadie Smith on Beauty 1. Kipps and Belsey
2. The Anatomy Lesson
3. On Beauty and Being Wrong
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