One may as well begin with Jeromes e-mails to his father:
Date: 5 November
Hey, Dad basically Im just going to keep on keeping on with these mails Im no longer expecting you to reply, but Im still hoping you will, if that makes sense.
Well, Im really enjoying everything. I work in Monty Kippss own office (did you know that hes actually Sir Monty??), which is in the Green Park area. Its me and a Cornish girl called Emily. Shes cool. Therere also three more yank interns downstairs (one from Boston!), so I feel pretty much at home. Im a kind of an intern with the duties of a PA organizing lunches, filing, talking to people on the phone, that sort of thing. Montys work is much more than just the academic stuff: hes involved with the Race Commission, and he has Church charities in Barbados, Jamaica, Haiti, etc. he keeps me really busy. Because its such a small set-up, I get to work closely with him and of course Im living with the family now, which is like being completely integrated into something new. Ah, the family. You didnt respond, so Im imagining your reaction (not too hard to imagine . . .). The truth is, it was really just the most convenient option at the time. And they were totally kind to offer I was being evicted from the bedsit place in Marylebone. The Kippses arent under any obligation to me, but they asked and I accepted gratefully. Ive been in their place a week now, and still no mention of any rent, which should tell you something. I know you want me to tell you its a nightmare, but I cant I love living here. Its a different universe. The house is just wow early Victorian, a terrace unassuming-looking outside but massive inside but theres still a kind of humility that really appeals to me almost everything white, and a lot of handmade things, and quilts and dark wood shelves and cornices and this four-storey staircase and in the whole place theres only one television, which is in the basement anyway, just so Monty can keep abreast of news stuff, and some of the things he does on the television but thats it. I think of it as the negativized image of our house sometimes . . . Its in this bit of North London called Kilburn, which sounds bucolic, but boy oh boy is not bucolic in the least, except for this street we live on off the high road, and its suddenly like you cant hear a thing and you can just sit in the yard in the shadow of this huge tree eighty feet tall and ivy-ed all up the trunk . . . reading and feeling like youre in a novel . . . Falls different here much less intense and trees balder earlier everything more melancholy somehow.
The family are another thing again they deserve more space and time than I have right now (Im writing this on my lunch hour). But, in brief: one boy, Michael, nice, sporty. A little dull, I guess. Youd think he was, anyway. Hes a business guy exactly what business I havent been able to figure out. And hes huge! Hes got two inches on you, at least. Theyre all big in that athletic, Caribbean way. He must be 6ft 5. Theres also a very tall and beautiful daughter, Victoria, who Ive seen only in photos (shes inter-railing in Europe), but shes coming back for a while on Friday, I think. Montys wife, Carlene perfect. Shes not from Trinidad, though its a small island, St something or other Im not sure. I didnt hear it very well the first time she mentioned it, and now its like its too late to ask. Shes always trying to fatten me up she feeds me constantly. The rest of the family talk about sports and God and politics, and Carlene floats above it all like a kind of angel and shes helping me with prayer. She really knows how to pray and its very cool to be able to pray without someone in your family coming into the room and (a) passing wind (b) shouting (c) analysing the phoney metaphysics of prayer (d) singing loudly (e) laughing.
Excerpted from On Beauty, (c) 2005 Zadie Smith. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Press. All rights reserved.
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