Tag Archives: Satire

Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth” is an Impressive Melting Pot of a Saga

From the Baochi Book Collection

Zadie Smith’s White Teeth was published in 2000 and received critical acclaim. The novel won numerous awards, including Time Magazine’s 2005 list of 100 Best English-Language Novels since 1923. I think White Teeth is a magnificent work of fiction filled with wit, satire, depth, and a cast of unforgettable characters.

The novel takes place in contemporary London and centers around two men — Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal — and their families. Englishman Archie and Muslim Bengali Samad form an unlikely friendship as soldiers during World War II and later become neighbors in a working-class suburb. After a failed first marriage, the once-conventional Archie unconventionally marries Clara, a Jamaican woman. The couple has a daughter named Irie. Samad enters into a pre-arranged marriage with Alsana, and they have twin boys named Millat and Magid.

As the members of the two families struggle to define their individual identities in a political and racially-charged society, their bond to one another becomes tenuous. Expectations abound between these two intertwined clans. Samad, a sometimes erring and devout Muslim, finds that his wife’s will outmatches his own and that his wayward twin sons have strayed from his religious faith and their Bengali roots. Simple Archie wants everyone to just get along; he is baffled by the tension between his wife and daughter, as well as the teenage angst rippling through all three kids. Continue reading

Holidays on Ice: Satire Sans Humor

Me Talk Pretty One Day put David Sedaris on the map as one of the funniest writers of our time. So even though Holidays on Ice is not nearly as enjoyable, I still admire Sedaris.

Holidays on Ice, like Me Talk Pretty One Day, is a book of short stories. The theme of Holidays, as its title indicates, are the family conflicts and tensions that seem to intensify around Christmastime. The stories contain glimpses of Sedaris satire but not to a level that draw laughter or even smiles of delight.

I am all for satires, which by definition are simultaneously biting and funny. Humor often draws from the disturbing aspects of life. The problem with this book, however, is that it feels more like a hostile and acerbic attack on Christmas — without levity and humor. The writing is still very witty but conspicuously absent is that playfulness that pervades Me Talk Pretty One Day.

I suppose it all boils down to expectations. I expected a sarcastic and funny book about the holidays. But actually, Holidays on Ice is dark and more serious than humorous.