Book Discussion for "On Beauty" by Zadie Smith

I've never read any of Zadie Smith's work, but she's been on my "to-read" list for some time. This should definitely be an interesting read - some of the reviews have noted the "flawed characters", while others have noted the delight of finding multiple layers of meaning in this book. Can't wait to discuss it with you!

Here's a short summary of the book:

On Beauty – Zadie Smith

Having hit bestseller lists from the New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle, this wise, hilarious novel reminds us why Zadie Smith has rocketed to literary stardom. On Beauty is the story of an interracial family living in the university town of Wellington, Massachusetts, whose misadventures in the culture wars-on both sides of the Atlantic-serve to skewer everything from family life to political correctness to the combustive collision between the personal and the political. Full of dead-on wit and relentlessly funny, this tour de force confirms Zadie Smith's reputation as a major literary talent.

Now let's get to readin'!

Suggested Donation: $2/attendee

As stated in my profile, I'm a broke-ass grad student, and Meetup groups cost money to run (surprise!), so... if you can contribute a buck or two, please do! This increases the likelihood that I can continue this group despite my rotten budget. If you can't, don't sweat it - it wouldn't really be fair to exclude other broke-asses. If there are extra funds from donations over the year (i.e., if the amount collected exceeds the cost of the Meetup, which is $144/year), then I will use the remaining funds for something fun for the group, like drinks/snacks for a holiday get together at the year's end.

A little note on RSVPs:

If you have to cancel (life happens sometimes), please do so at least 24 hours in advance. That way space can be freed up for others who may wish to attend, but for whom there wasn't enough room. RSVPs cannot be changed after 9:00am on the day of the event, so be sure to change your RSVP well in advance of this! Also, if you are on the waiting list and other's change their RSVP to "no", you will be bumped up on the list, so make sure to check your status the day of the event. If you RSVP "yes" and don't show up 3 times (yes, I will be counting!), you will be excluded from future attendance. This is only fair for others who want to attend the meetings.

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  • Gabrielle L.

    Zadie Smith is the guest on City Arts and Lectures on KQED today at 1PM. If you miss it, the show will be re-broadcast Tuesday at 8PM.

    1 · November 17, 2013

  • Lorelie

    I forgot to mention a couple of things about Howards End - Howards End is a name of a house, which in Zadie Snith's novels transform into a painting. Representations of the beauty of the soul of England and of "the black woman" via representative art. Howards End is about peccadillos, and of shame and the defense of honor. It is about the consequences of those acts upon men vs women, upon the privileged vs the middle class vs the lower class, upon the liberal vs the conservative. Howards End become the refuge for two women: for its intended recipient and for her unwed pregnant sister and the child she will bear. Howards End is also about kindness towards what one cannot accept.

    November 12, 2013

  • lorena

    I had fun

    November 11, 2013

  • Valerie F.

    An interesting series on NPR. Some of the recent stories are relevant to our conversation yesterday:

    November 11, 2013

  • Jamie Ball E.

    Looks like I got moved off the wait list, but wasn't able to finish the book in time, only half way through :( Loving it though! - hopefully next time.

    November 10, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      hope you finish the book anyway - it was really interesting!

      November 10, 2013

  • Serena M.

    Argh I can't come! Hopefully someone from wait list sees this and decides to go. Sorry guys.

    November 10, 2013

  • Gabrielle L.

    That was a great meeting! The best book club meeting I've attended so far by far. Wonderful to meet such intelligent and insightful fellow readers.

    1 · November 10, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      Glad you came - it was nice to meet you!

      November 10, 2013

  • Liz

    Gutted. My first miss, and it's a rich book, and it's a Brit author, and I went with Aïda to the City Arts & Lectures interview with Zadie Smith, and... and... but... just... <sigh>

    Somewhat ironically, given the prominent theme of the book, it's family duty calling me to be present at a one-off event, precisely between 3-5pm on this very day.

    Don't have too much intellectual debate or academic warfare without me.

    (I'm only one-third through the book, but already wondering if we should be working on "Team Belsey" and "Team Kipps" shirts, or "Team Kiki", "Team Howard" etc...)

    Have fun, guys! See you in December!

    November 2, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      Bummer! You'll have to fill us in on your thoughts next time we see you :)

      1 · November 5, 2013

    • Liz

      Short version is Team Kiki, right up until the hint at the very end that she might be unavoidably drawn back to Belsey after all. Boo! Bad Kiki, bad! I was rooting for Carl for the longest time, but disappointed that he gave up the battle and vanished, albeit it understandable. Harold prompted a soft spot of sympathy; even if his old man racism was sad and unforgivable, I wouldn't wish Howard on him as a son. Ultimately, all things considered, I have little option other than Team Jerome, despite theological differences.

      That is, unless anyone wants to join me in Team Murdoch?

      November 10, 2013

  • Jeremy

    Started it. I like her previous work, and so far I appreciate this one. Just not going to get it finished by Sunday, so I'm opening the spot for the next on the list. Have fun, bookworms. Next time, hopefully.

    November 6, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      Boo! Hope you finish it anyway so we can chat about it in the future...

      1 · November 9, 2013

    • Liz

      Yes! I'm in for that!

      November 10, 2013

  • Diana C.

    Work emergency!

    November 10, 2013

  • peter r.

    Sorry, I cant make this one, I am overbooked.


    November 9, 2013

  • peter r.

    I agree with the suggested $2 donation.

    October 20, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Bummed because I voted for it, but I will be on the East Coast. I loved White Teeth, her first book. Should be a lively discussion.

    1 · October 14, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Since school started I probably won't be able to make it out, but I love Zadie Smith and hope you all enjoy reading it!

    1 · October 13, 2013

  • Aïda

    I posted a similar message a few days ago under discussion but now that this is open I thought of mentioning it here. It might be seen by more bookworms ;)
    Zadie Smith's coming to SanFrancisco at the end of October to give a talk. Details:

    September 15, 2013

    • Valerie F.

      You are so on it! Thanks for sharing again :)

      September 16, 2013

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