Let’s talk about White Teeth
1. Zadie Smith is good at writing various dialects. Here is an example of how Hortense, from Jamaica, speaks:
“Well, don’ look so shock. It a very satisfactory arrangement. Women need a man ‘bout de house, udderwise ting an’ ting get messy.” You get the idea. I can’t help but read it in her accent, and it’s great. It sounds as though she actually knows people who speak like this; not like she’s just trying to copy what she THINKS it should sound like.
2. I don’t know what to call this rambling-ass prose, but I like it (Hortense is a crazy-ass Jehovah’s Witness):
“But Clara needn’t have feared. Irie’s atheism was robust. It was Chalfenist in its confidence, and she approached her stay with Hortense with detached amusement. She was intrigued by the Bowden household. It was a place of endgames and aftertimes, fullstops and finales; where to count on the arrival of tomorrow was an indulgence, and every service in the house, from the milkman to the electricity, was paid for on a strictly daily basis so as not to spend money on utilities or goods that would be wasted should God turn up in all his holy vengeance the very next day. Bowdenism gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “hand to mouth.” This was living in the eternal instant, ceaselessly teetering on the precipice of total annihilation; there are people who take a great deal of drugs simply to experience something comparable to eighty-four-year-old Hortense Bowden’s day-to-day existence.”
3. I just love this paragraph:
“‘Yeah, he fucked off and left me. He didn’t love me. He just couldn’t deal with love. He was too fucked up to know how to love me.’ Now, how did that happen? What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll – then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”
“He’s gassing himself, Abba.”
Arshad shrugged. “I shouted through the car window and told the guy to move on and he says, ‘I am gassing myself, leave me alone.’ Like that.”
“No one gasses himself on my property,” Mo snapped as he marched downstairs. “We are not licensed.”
Once in the street, Mo advanced upon Archie’s car, pulled out the towels that were sealing the gap in the driver’s window, and pushed it down five inches with brute, bullish force.
“Do you hear that, mister? We’re not licensed for suicides around here. This place halal. Kosher, understand? If you’re going to die round here, my friend, I’m afraid you’ve got to be thoroughly bled first.”