Friday, August 5, 2011

Beauty, Beauty

I adore Zadie Smith – absolutely ADORE her. On Beauty was the first book by her that I read, and it’s been a love affair with her writing ever since. In this book, she flawlessly weaves together the lives of numerous characters and asks so many huge questions: What is beauty? What is intelligence? What is family?

One of my favorite characters in the novel, Jerome, falls head-over-heels in love with Victoria, a Trinidadian beauty.  Victoria is unique and exotic, and Jerome as well as his father, Howard, get totally sucked into her. 

“The first thing to note were two spots of radiant highlights on her face – maybe the result of the same cocoa butter Kiki used in the winter. A pool of moonlight on her smooth forehead, and another on the tip of her nose; the kind of highlights, it occurred to Howard, that would be impossible to paint without distorting, without misrepresenting, the solid darkness of her true complexion. And her hair had changed again: now it was wormy dreadlocks going every which way, although none was longer than two inches.”

In reading this, I think about Paul Gauguin and his many paintings of tropical women.  This painting is of two Tahitian women.  Gauguin seems to paint these women in the same manner that Howard describes Victoria.  The exotic beauty of both jumps off the page.

Ideas of beauty are all over the place in this novel.  At one point, thias conversation happens:
"- You look fine.
- Right. I look fine. Except I don't, said Zora, tugging sadly at her man's nightshirt. This was why Kiki had dreaded having girls: she knew she wouldn't be able to protect them from self-disgust. "

What is beauty? Some think it’s a Raphael painting: 

She is gorgeous, and Raphael highlighted body and face for us. Howeverm, others have different ideas that have nothing to do with what’s on the outside. What do you think makes someone beautiful?

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