Thursday, October 2, 2008

on Zadie Smith's White Teeth

I'm trying to get better about acknowledging comments (I think this might increase, you know, interaction). So, my very brief thoughts on White Teeth.

Have any of you read this novel? It got a lot of attention when it came out -- the blurbs on my paperback edition are blush-worthily effusive. Apparently Ms. Smith wrote this as a student at Cambridge (hearsay from Brandi)? I know she as 24 or 25 when it was published, which shames me and brings out the green in my eyes.

Anyway, White Teeth covers decades and decades, colonialism, postcolonialism, globalization. It traces class difference, religious difference, nationality difference, gender difference, generation difference, lots of hot-stuff-pomo Difference. Reading it (and especially coming to the end), one gets the sense that creating a flow chart or mapped web or some other visual representation of the characters' interrelations and parallels and comparisons would result in this chaotic mass of lace on the page. Seriously, everything is connected.

I will say--and perhaps this is influenced by that tinge of green iris--that the tooth conceit is a bit overdone, or perhaps awkwardly artificial. Does anyone who's read this agree?

But really, it's provocative and sort of lilting and gritty and even charming in its portrayal of the ridiculous and the painful. I'd read it again.


  1. Have any of you read this novel? Using proper nouns lends authority to your work. Instead of novel use White Teeth. Actually leave the sentence out. Always assume that the reader is not familiar with your subject matter.

    when it came out – lacks precision – when did it come out?

    apparently – hearsay – research

    anyway – weak – leave out

    White Teeth covers decades and decades – can you be more precise?

    It traces class, religious, gender, and generational differences.


    Need more detail on teeth conceit because, no, I have not read Zadie Smith’s offering.

    Why is it provocative, lilting, and gritty?

    More detail on why you would read it again.

    Life is good,


  2. Ha! I love the line-by-line edits, though I'm usually the one doing them. Weird inversion experience.