Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thoughts on Zadie Smith's White Teeth

Thoughts (1): Zadie Smith's White Teeth

As I mentioned in a previous Favorite Things post, Zadie Smith's White Teeth (2000) has recently become one of my favorites. Known as the debut novel Smith seemingly sprung up during her time at Cambridge University, White Teeth has raised much controversy by many who claim Smith reaches too far for a first-time novelist.

The story is about the friendship of two middle-aged men: Archiebald (Archie) Jones and Samad Iqbal. Archie is a dull Englishman who is introduced at the start of the novel as he unsuccessfully attempts suicide. Samad, Archie's best friend, is another failure: a devoted Muslim who craves power and fortune, yet has waited tables for the past 20 years. The story unfolds to show how Archie's and Samad's London-born children assimilate to their surroundings, together and apart, in ways their immigrant parents never could (though equally as awkward).

While she confronts the hard issues of urban living within an overcrowded London, nevertheless, Smith bravely attempts to mix together a new scene of London-life. She pays less attention to the individual Londoner and carefully focuses on relationships as a whole. And these quirky relationships across cultural divides make the outwardly flat characters stick with us long after the story is over.

Overreaching or not, by taking us into the overlooked corners of contemporary fiction and confronting such challenging themes, it's easy to see how Smith has made such a notable name for herself at just 24-years-old, while proving to be anything but a stereotypical, first-time novelist. Check it out and see for yourself!