Why did I choose White Teeth?
I was lucky enough to meet Zadie Smith this summer. I had read her short essays but wanted to connect with her mind on a more sustained level (besides, printing out a NYRB column isn’t exactly a good look), so I decided to start reading her fiction chronologically. This was a great match: I had wanted to read something energetic, outlandish, clever, yet relatively lighthearted.
Face to face, Zadie Smith went straight to the point, she goddess of origin stories: ‘So, what do you do, how did you end up here tonight?’ […] ‘You have an accent?’
Similarly, from line one of page 1/541, Smith’s ability to juxtapose the macro and micro (the historical vs. the personal) to both inform and tease the reader transpires: ‘Early in the morning, late in the century.’ The vagary is swiftly followed up by an amusingly anticlimactic conclusion altogether: ‘Cricklewood Broadway.’
On the blurb, the words ‘sassy,’ ‘witty,’ funny,’ ‘quirky,’ and ‘hilarious’ make it read like reviews for an Edinburgh Fringe debut (I’d go see Zadie Smith’s stand-up, if she would oblige).
What’s the book about; Why should you read it?
Smith’s novel will make you laugh. The narrative voice is observational, not judgemental. The language is quick-witted and assured, but never pretentious or overly high brow. There is space for you to draw your own conclusions regarding a range of interesting, complex, and likeable characters (Irie being, unsurprisingly, my favourite). The author offers a well-rounded depiction of three dysfunctional families’ dynamics over five generations. And of course, there’s London life, multiculturalism, and… white teeth. It may seem unclear how all these different parts can fit together, yet, Smith makes it work with commendable consistency and detail (look out for the illustrations!). The story comes full circle as if it had been told in the oral tradition, in front of the crackling light. Either way, you will be left with warmth and contentment.