The 150-word Review: An all-encompassing rivalry, upon which your career, reputation, and identity is based, can sometimes be a real drag.
Howard Belsey is a British-born professor of Rembrandt studies, living with his African-American wife and his two children in the ivy-covered sanctuary of Wellington, outside Boston. Monty Kipps is Howard’s rival, an ultra-conservative dandy, an author of a best-selling book on Rembrandt, and the visiting professor at Howard’s university. When Howard’s oldest son, Jerome, falls under the seductive spell of Kipps’ daughter, he is compelled to rescue his son from Monty’s objectionable worldview.
As with her first novel, “White Teeth,” Zadie Smith explores the travails of the middle-class, multi-ethnic family: parents losing touch with their children, spouses hanging on to hopeless marriages, and children struggling to come to terms with their heritage and establish unique identities. “On Beauty” holds a magnifying glass up to the “culture wars” with hilarious, and insightful, results.
Reading this book on your shelf will impress: fans of E.M. Forster, Haitian street hawkers, hip-hop archivists, back-bitting academics, proponents of affirmative action, opponents of affirmative action, freestyle rappers, and dangerous ingénues.
This book will go great with: Dr. Brown’s Soda
Set the mood with: Ball of Confusion by Love and Rockets
Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, the book is loosely based on “Howards End” by E. M. Forster, and has been described by Zadie Smith as a homage to Forster’s novel.