Self is reading Zadie Smith’s first book, White Teeth.
She began to read it a little before midnight last night, then stayed up reading until 3:30 a.m.
After five hours sleep, self was back reading again.
Then she had to go teach in the Writers Center for a few hours.
When she got home, she resumed reading. But found her attention flagging.
So, self did what she always does when she develops an unexpected response to a book. She turns to the reader reviews on Amazon.com.
And here’s what she found:
- This book, published in 2001, when Smith was 24 years old, is ranked 7,682 in Amazon books (Pretty impressive, that!).
- Readers have written 360 reviews.
Self then goes skimming through the reader reviews, paying attention only to the ones whose “reader agreement rate” is less than 90% (Why? Because the ones who everyone else agrees with, 95 or even 100% of the time are just not that interesting!)
A man with whom Amazon readers agree 81% of the time has given White Teeth five stars, for the following reasons:
- the “brilliant and comic portrayal of the aged Hortense Bowden” (who self has yet to encounter, she’s only on p. 80)
- “Smith’s characters are truly vibrant.”
Where self is in the novel, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal are together in a tank during World War II. And self completely forgot that Archie Jones was white. Somehow, she thought he was Indian, and she was mighty confused when she encountered a line from Smith about Samad feeling a little uncomfortable at an Indian telling an Englishman what to do, or something to that effect. So now she has reinforcement from this Amazon reader: Archie Jones is indeed white.
The reviewer cites characters like Irie Jones and Joyce Chalfen — self has not yet had the pleasure of encountering these, though one would think that at some point the new characters would stop coming. At least, self hopes so. For already she’s mixed up.
Then, another Amazon reviewer (reader agreement rate: 75%) says the book has “pitiful” character development, and “no plot.” But since that reader acknowledges he/she couldn’t get past the first 50 pages, perhaps his/her word cannot be relied upon, at least not as much as that of another reader (reader agreement rate: 81%), who actually got to finish reading the book, who says it “meandered all over the place,” that Clara (one of the characters self at least remembers reading about) drops out of the novel entirely at some point, that there will be the introduction of an animal liberation group named FATE (how self hates the inclusion of animal liberation groups in any novel! Even though she is for animal liberation herself, she finds it such an easy ride to sanctimonious emotion or satire — at least it is in fiction), and so forth and so on.
Yet another Amazon reviewer praises the dialogue.
Self is now completely torn. She’ll try to finish the book, however. After self read the first 30 pages, she suddenly remembered that she’d borrowed this book from the library, several years earlier. But she must have returned it un-finished, for much of what she reads is unfamiliar. In order to forestall the possibility that she’ll be borrowing this again, five or six years from now, self might as well get it over with and read the whole thing now.
* * * * *
Self’s mood brightens considerably when, after browsing through Buzzsugar article about Fall’s upcoming movies, she learns that Peter Sarsgaard (who is sooo under-rated! She loved him in “Kinsey”!) will be appearing in a movie this fall. AND, so will Colin Firth and Lee Pace (appearing in the same movie, the directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford, OMG! P.S.: The OMG is for Firth and Pace, not for Ford, who self remembers most for doing a Vanity Fair cover of himself with three nekkid young actresses)
Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.