Bookish Banter- Zadie Smith's White Teeth

It' that time again! Julie, from Julz Reads, and I both read Zadie Smith's White Teeth, a book I've had on my shelf for probably close to eight years. It's the perfect way to virtually "hang out" until I get my butt to her neck of the woods some day and get through some of our backlog. Here's our conversation on the novel: 

(Spoilers ahead!) 

Julz: I have to start with the separation of the twins.  Did Samad send the wrong son away? Would Millat have benefited more from going to Bangladesh? Or conversely, should the ever have been separated in the first place?  Do you think Magid would have been a good influence on Millat?  

Christine: Twins are such a great experiment in the classic nature/nurture conundrum. Did Millat turn out the way he did because he was left in England, or would he always have been a rebel, even if sent back to Bangladesh? There’s no way to know, and clearly they were already quite different before he left. I really hated the fact that Samad sent Magid away; he didn’t ask for his wife’s input (I know, I know, cultural differences, but still, it made me so mad), didn’t warn his sons, and did everything in such a secretive manner.

Julz: Yes, Samad’s behavior and secrecy was a little frustrating, but I also found it to be a bit of a comic foil.

When we were first introduced to the Chalfins, I absolutely adored them.  And the shock of Irie's realization that there was such a thing as a normal, happy family was too funny.  But the more I got to know the family and their Chalfinisms, the more I realized how flawed they were.  Before Irie and Millat enter their insular home, they were perfectly content, but the outside influence of such dysfunction turned Joyce into an interfering annoyance.  What did you think of the Chalfins?

Christine: Same! I thought they were so intellectual and quirky, but Joyce quickly started irking me. The way she latched on to Millat so quickly was borderline disturbing- her obsession was constantly at risk from turning from insanely maternal to sexual. Joshua’s separation from his family reminded me so much of Millat’s; Smith seems to be commenting on the risk overbearing parents play in the upbringing of teenagers. I wanted to like Marcus, since he was a man of science and whatnot. But he too ended up being problematic and sort of boundary-challenged, when it came to his correspondence and involvement with Magid (or did he just mean well? I don’t know…).

Julz: My favorite scene in the book was when Archie and Samad take Magid to O'Connell's and the following things happen:
-Magid calls out Mickey's skin condition
-He orders a bacon sandwich
-He says to his father, "I thought you were here because Amma beat you in the wrestling."
-And Archie's miraculous coinflip into the pinball machine

Are there any stand-out scenes for you?

Christine: I loved when Irie told everyone off on the bus as a result of those new pregnancy hormonal urges (that whole development was a bit of a last minute plot twist). She was probably one of my favorite characters and I had been wanting to yell at them all to be quiet for the last four hundred pages, so I was glad someone finally did!

I also loved that super quick scene where Neena and her girlfriend go to dinner at the Chalfins and it becomes so awkward, so fast. I was literally laughing out loud (which is pretty rare for me when reading).

Julz: Ah yes, curiosity about lesbian dynamics.  That was pretty funny.

I agree, Irie was my favorite character as well.  And I KNEW she was going to get pregnant after sleeping with the twins.  I had literally written it down in my journal notes just before the “reveal.”  Quite the conundrum…

1 comment:

  1. I love the virtual hang out. I do hope you can come visit Chicago some time. And I have dreams that I go to Corona for one-on-one embroidery lessons and swim in your pool and hang out with Sawyer...