Zadie Smith, London riots and envy

On beauty

I’ve been going through some major English nostalgia the past few days. One Ms. Zadie Smith sparked it all with her sprawling debut White Teeth–the “astonishingly assured novel,” according to Salman Rushdie, that she started writing when she was 21 years old. Yes, 21. Barely older than me. I read the book, which was good, though the last quarter was pretty messy, with her age vividly in the front, back and center of my mind. I was impressed with her obvious knowledge of a lot things. And then, I figured, if I could understand her allusions, maybe there’s hope for me?

Who is this woman anyway?  This tall, light-skinned, high cheek-boned woman with the beautiful melancholy face? (Seriously. In all of her blurb photos she has the same dreary look in her eyes. )

I first heard of Zadie a couple of years ago. My sister recommended On Beauty. I thought it was alright. Then I read it again last summer and loved it. And then I did all the research, read all the reviews, and got the media version on Smith pretty quickly. Young, gorgeous, mixed-race prodigy gets 250,000 pounds advance on her debut novel. Now tenured professor at NYU. Married to dishy (Oh, English slang, how I miss you) Nick Laird, Irish poet. Went to Cambridge. Can write about Nabokov and Eric B in the same novel.

Smith is one of those people that I half-admire, half despise out of insatiable envy. In one Guardian interview, the author notes that lots of women seem to hate Zadie. Can you blame us? Intellect is supposed to be compensation for lack of beauty. When someone has both in droves, it’s maddening. Add the fact that she’s seriously, seriously talented and armed with a formidable knowledge of pop culture, and it makes you wonder why you bother doing anything, have any dreams or aspirations…

***

I really want to go to England. Inopportune timing perhaps, in light of all the stupidity going on in London, but man, I want to go. I get this hankerings sometimes, these cravings–the other day just reading the Wikipedia entry on Lagos set it off. Suddenly I had a vivid vision of sitting in Lagos traffic, the smell of petrol and body odor, the blanket of humidity, the flies, the beggars, the trifling radio DJ, the bulletproof SUVs, it all came back like a rush. I guess I’ve got this wandering bone in my body that I can’t deny.

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2 Comments on “Zadie Smith, London riots and envy”

  1. Stella says:

    “Add the fact that she’s seriously, seriously talented and armed with a formidable knowledge of pop culture, and it makes you wonder why you bother doing anything, have any dreams or aspirations…”
    It might be good to let yourself dream and aspire to something purely for the love of it instead of from a drive to come out on top.


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