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We say to the apathetic, Where there's a will, there's a way, as if the brute realities of the world did not amuse themselves each day by turning that phrase on its head.

José Saramago

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Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

I started reading Zadie Smith's first novel, White Teeth, on the train this morning, and got so wrapped up that I continued reading for another half hour after I got off the train, and came in to work a little late. I'm reading this on the recommendation of Jennifer Egan. And feeling a bit excited about how much contemporary fiction I have been reading lately -- Smith is five years my junior, where most of the authors I have read in my time are much older than I -- maybe this heralds a new day of my being more up-to-date in my literary tastes.

posted morning of September 12th, 2006: Respond
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Thursday, September 14th, 2006

A couple of things about White Teeth -- God it is making me feel old! I am identifying closely, in parts, with Archie and with Samad, in all their flawed, petty weakness. From a little reading of her Wikipædia bio, Irie would seem to be the character that represents the author. I am reading the chapter that centers around her education right now, and finding it very powerful -- the description of her class reading Sonnet 127 seemed like kind of a set piece, but it moved me.

posted evening of September 14th, 2006: Respond
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Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

Yesterday I finished reading White Teeth and started reading The Autograph Man. White Teeth starts out great and just keeps getting better and better as it progresses. The ending blew me away. The vast quantity of threads left loose and hanging did not bother me at all, indeed it added something. My initial reaction to The Autograph Man was, it seems really fun and well-written, sort of like a more coherent equivalent of The Fan Man, but not a Serious Novel in the same way White Teeth was. Of course this reaction prompts me to do some thinking about what would make it serious or not -- I haven't come up with much yet in that regard. For now I am treating it as an analogue of The Crying of Lot 49 and hoping it grows on me the same way that novel has.

posted morning of September 20th, 2006: Respond
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Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

🦋 The Peculiar Second Marriage of Archie Jones

I must thank Alicia Kennedy for alerting me to the existence of a BBC adaptation of White Teeth (2002), and to its availability at I watched the first episode this evening; it is just magnificently, ebulliently well done. Smith's strong narrative voice is missing, but the filmmakers (Julian Jarrold, director; Simon Burke, screenplay) have found their own distinctive, resonant approach to the story. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

posted evening of April 20th, 2010: Respond
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