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On Beauty by Zadie Smith
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On Beauty (2005)

by Zadie Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,060202655 (3.64)1 / 517
  1. 51
    Howards End by E. M. Forster (GCPLreader)
    GCPLreader: Read the novel that On Beauty pays homage to.
  2. 00
    Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie (withwill)
  3. 01
    Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (charl08)
    charl08: One a more 'traditional' campus novel, perhaps, but similar themes re English literature as taught at US colleges.
  4. 02
    The Marriage Plot: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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English (190)  Dutch (4)  Hebrew (2)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (199)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
Definitely witty, but not really lovable. This spot-on satire of the world of universities and academia is laugh-out-loud funny. However, I found most of the characters unlikable, and any attempts to make them relatable - Zora's unrequited crush, for example - just made them seem pathetic. I know that this book is an homage to Howards End, and some scenes are pretty much lifted from the original, but I think it ultimately failed to deliver Forster's message of "Only connect." ( )
  doryfish | Jul 31, 2019 |
With dialogue straight from a clever BBC program and themes running from mid-life crises, academia and race to, well, beauty, Zadie Smith’s third novel held my interest in peaks and valleys. The novel is often funny, but certain characters and story lines simply failed to captivate me or gain my sympathy. I did really enjoy the way she skewered academia (particularly a small New England university) and I sympathized with Levi, the young man from a racially mixed family trying to figure out what it means to ‘be black’ in America. But with all of the serious themes, I mostly just got caught up in the family drama. ( )
  Seafox | Jul 24, 2019 |
read in flat Lori's house Oakland ( )
  Overgaard | Jun 5, 2019 |
There was nothing wrong with this book. Only, it seemed like an unenthusiastic magic trick. Deft and impressive, but not very exciting. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
I wanted to scream at a few characters several times in this book, which I'll just put down to Zadie Smith's excellent writing and realistic characters. This is a tale of two families, who don't necessarily get along perfectly, but who live and work within the same community and have a strong connection. Humor is definitely present, as many characters end up in situations only one step removed from ridiculous. As I was reading, I had to double-check the publication date (it was earlier than I expected), as this novel clearly emerged from a particular era, but remains relevant (if not more so) today. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Mar 21, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
On Beauty" is that rare comic novel about the divisive cultural politics of the new century likely to amuse readers on the right as much as those on the left. (Not that they'll necessarily be laughing in the same places.) Yet Smith is up to more as well: she wants to rise above the fray even as she wallows in it, to hit a high note of idealism rather than sink into the general despair. How radical can you be? Blame it on her youth.
 
Beautifully observed details of clothing, weather, cityscapes and the bustling human background of drivers, shoppers and passers-by are constantly being folded into the central flow of thought, feeling and action, giving even the most mundane moments - Levi riding a bus into Boston, Howard setting up a projector - a dense, pulsing life.
 
On Beauty is quieter. There is a complicated story making up by richness of implication what it lacks in exuberance. The culture of the Boston campus is set among the other cultures such a city harbours. Carl, the outsider who enters the story because of the muddle at the concert, is far from being a replica of Leonard Bast. He’s an exponent of rap culture – and it is a culture, unlike Bast’s pathetic aspirations. The power of his rap has to be explained, and indeed the author intervenes personally to endorse it: ‘the present-day American poets, the rappers’. The mufflered pink-cheeked charm of a New England campus in winter is very agreeably rendered. The row between Professor Belsey and Kiki when she finds out he’s been cheating is as deft as anybody could make it, he with his stumbling, evasive academic dialect and she with her ‘personal’ language and naturally inflexible notions of fidelity and honour.

In a late scene Kiki is sorting out her children’s accumulated belongings. As she is carrying two bags of her elder son’s ‘pre-growth-spurt clothes’, we are told:

Last year, she had not thought she would still be in this house, in this marriage, come spring. But here she was, here she was. A tear in the garbage bag freed three pairs of pants and a sweater. Kiki crouched to pick these up and, as she did so, the second bag split too. She had packed them too heavy. The greatest lie ever told about love is that it sets you free.

What makes this passage brilliant is that the sententia at the end, though it may be true, is somehow made ironical because it is Kiki, there among all the random evidence of her love, who is uttering it, and not some cheat, some intellectual, some person of recognised authority. She is the measure of Zadie Smith’s powers at 30, Forster’s age when he published Howards End.
 

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zadie Smithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Eggermont, MoniqueTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pouwels, KittyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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We refuse to b each other. H.J.Blackham
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For my dear Laird.
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One may as well begin with Jerome's e-mails to his father.
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Book description
En grotesk og morsom beretning om fjendskabet mellem to kunsthistorikere. Om universitetsliv, om kærlighed og sex og om at blive voksen.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143037749, Paperback)

In an author's note at the end of On Beauty, Zadie Smith writes: "My largest structural debt should be obvious to any E.M. Forster fan; suffice it to say he gave me a classy old frame, which I covered with new material as best I could." If it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Forster, perched on a cloud somewhere, should be all puffed up with pride. His disciple has taken Howards End, that marvelous tale of class difference, and upped the ante by adding race, politics, and gender. The end result is a story for the 21st century, told with a perfect ear for everything: gangsta street talk; academic posturing, both British and American; down-home black Floridian straight talk; and sassy, profane kids, both black and white.

Howard Belsey is a middle-class white liberal Englishman teaching abroad at Wellington, a thinly disguised version of one of the Ivies. He is a Rembrandt scholar who can't finish his book and a recent adulterer whose marriage is now on the slippery slope to disaster. His wife, Kiki, a black Floridian, is a warm, generous, competent wife, mother, and medical worker. Their children are Jerome, disgusted by his father's behavior, Zora, Wellington sophomore firebrand feminist and Levi, eager to be taken for a "homey," complete with baggy pants, hoodies and the ever-present iPod. This family has no secrets--at least not for long. They talk about everything, appropriate to the occasion or not. And, there is plenty to talk about.

The other half of the story is that of the Kipps family: Monty, stiff, wealthy ultra-conservative vocal Christian and Rembrandt scholar, whose book has been published. His wife Carlene is always slightly out of focus, and that's the way she wants it. She wafts over all proceedings, never really connecting with anyone. That seems to be endemic in the Kipps household. Son Michael is a bit of a Monty clone and daughter Victoria is not at all what Daddy thinks she is. Indeed, Forster's advice, "Only connect," is lost on this group.

The two academics have long been rivals, detesting each other's politics and disagreeing about Rembrandt. They are thrown into further conflict when Jerome leaves Wellington to get away from the discovery of his father's affair, lands on the Kipps' doorstep, falls for Victoria and mistakes what he has going with her for love. Howard makes it worse by trying to fix it. Then, Kipps is granted a visiting professorship at Wellington and the whole family arrives in Massachusetts.

From this raw material, Smith has fashioned a superb book, her best to date. She has interwoven class, race, and gender and taken everyone prisoner. Her even-handed renditions of liberal and/or conservative mouthings are insightful, often hilarious, and damning to all. She has a great time exposing everyone's clay feet. This author is a young woman cynical beyond her years, and we are all richer for it. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:49 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

En munter og vittig komedie om moderne universitetsliv i USA, således som det opleves af to rivaliserende akademikere, hvis ægteskaber, familie og hele dagligliv påvirkes af deres vidt forskellige holdninger til næsten alt her i livet.

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