If you want to read a rockin’ role model of literature in the now, Zadie Smith is your girl!
Her name begins with a Z = awesome (We’ll forget that she changed it in a punky phase during adolescence from regular old Sadie and imagine she popped out hardcore and fabulous.)
Her brothers are rappers = awesome
Her prose has a raw funk and deals with trending issues of society both in England and across the pond where she currently makes her living= awesome
Her latest novel, the third in her canon after White Teeth and Autograph Man, On Beauty is based on an essay of almost the same title. If this title signals aestheticism to you, then I agree.
The characters in On Beauty represent both English and American differences, post-colonialism theory, aestheticism, and a running banter on the politics of academia.
Something that Zadie Smith highlights in this novel, that holds significance to one blogger, is the destruction of beauty through analyzing and intellectualizing. Two old men of England bicker on Rembrandt’s paintings and theoretical analysis. It pretty much sets up the entire plot of dramatic family issues and the tedious arguments lead to a depreciation of anything Rembrandt.
Another character, a molded poet guru, takes a street poet and plops him in fictional ivy leagues. The street poet is formed and molded to society. He is broken by a 9-5 type job yet, is still stereotyped as the street kid. His art is formalized and reigned in. The more he learned, the less he could do.
Zadie Smith is the sage of one of my most favorite quotes in the English language (coming in second to a Greek saying “Nai, esi kai dio aloyo” which loosely translated is “Yes, you and two horses” for those who exaggerate often), “The search for an identity is one of the most wholesale phony ideas we’ve ever been sold.”
With art and with life, the more you categorize and intellectualize the less beautiful it can be.
For example, a class on the psychology of sexual behavior breaks the act of passion into selfish genetics and evolutionary necessity.
Even analyzing poetry and prose takes out the beauty in many cases. I’ve never really had a professor ask how the words make you feel. and just leave it at that. Sometimes the feeling is all that is really necessary.
Analyzing and philosophizing is a selfish route in many ways. Truly appreciating and absorbing is beautiful, is living.
After analyzing the hell out of On Beauty, I decided to read it again just for pleasure sake. I threw out Barthes’ jouissance and allowed for simple enjoyment.
And you know what, it wasn’t half bad…..
Alas, I’m a slave to system and I analyze about 23 1/2 hours per day. (The rest I simply appreciate)