Reading Group to discuss On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Sunday, June 25, 2023
4:30pm - 6:00pm Pacific
San Francisco location emailed to registrants two days before meeting.
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Zadie Smith 445 pages 2005
Shortlisted for the 2005 Man Booker Prize
2006 Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction
Since the publication of her debut novel, White Teeth, in 2000, British-Jamaican Smith has emerged as one of England's most acclaimed fiction writers. In interviews, Smith explains how On Beauty is her homage to Forster's Howards End in that it's centered on two families and their very different yet increasingly intertwined lives. The Belseys (university professor Howard, a white Englishman and a scholar of Rembrandt; his African-American wife Kiki; and their three children) live in the fictional university town of Wellington, MA. Howard's professional nemesis is Monty Kipps, a Trinidadian living in Britain with his wife Carlene and children. Smith satirizes their misadventures in the culture wars—on both sides of the Atlantic—skewering everything from family life to political correctness to the combustive collision between the personal and the political.(publisher)
Harvard connections (from Wikipedia):
The setting of much of the novel, the fictitious Wellington College and surrounding community, contains many close parallels to Harvard and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Smith wrote the novel while a resident fellow at the Radcliffe Institute.
Smith gives herself a Hitchcock-style cameo in the novel: a "feckless novelist” on campus as a visiting fellow of the fictional Wellington faculty, known to be "quick to abandon tedious meetings."
The failed final lecture that concludes On Beauty is loosely based on an infamous real-life talk on Lolita given by former Harvard professor Leland de la Durantaye to the Harvard English Department.