Excerpt of On Beauty by Zadie Smith
(Page 3 of 8)
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Love and peace in abundance,
P.S. in answer to your polite query, yes, I am still one . . .
evident contempt Im feeling quite fine about it, thanks . . .
really not that late among young people these days, especially
theyve decided to make their fellowship with Christ. It was
that you asked, because I did walk through Hyde Park yesterday
thought of you losing yours to someone you had never met before
and never would again. And no, I wasnt tempted to repeat the
incident . . .
Date: 19 November
Dear Dr Belsey!
I have no idea how youre going to take this one! But were in
The Kipps girl and me! Im going to ask her to marry me, Dad!
think shell say yes!!! Are you digging on these exclamation
Her names Victoria but everyone calls her Vee. Shes amazing,
gorgeous, brilliant. Im asking her officially this evening,
wanted to tell you first. Its come over us like the Song of
and theres no way to explain it apart from as a kind of mutual
revelation. She just arrived here last week sounds crazy but
true!!!! Seriously: Im happy. Please take two Valium and ask
to mail me ASAP. Ive got no credit left on this phone and dont
like to use theirs.
What, Howard? What am I looking at, exactly?
Howard Belsey directed his American wife, Kiki Simmonds, to
the relevant section of the e-mail he had printed out. She put
elbows either side of the piece of paper and lowered her head as
she always did when concentrating on small type. Howard moved
away to the other side of their kitchen-diner to attend to a
kettle. There was only this one high note the rest was
Their only daughter, Zora, sat on a stool with her back to the
her earphones on, looking up reverentially at the television.
the youngest boy, stood beside his father in front of the
cabinets. And now the two of them began to choreograph a
in speechless harmony: passing the box of cereal from one to
the other, exchanging implements, filling their bowls and
milk from a pink china jug with a sun-yellow rim. The house was
south facing. Light struck the double glass doors that led to
garden, filtering through the arch that split the kitchen. It
softly upon the still life of Kiki at the breakfast table,
reading. A dark red Portuguese earthenware bowl faced
her, piled high with apples. At this hour the light extended
even further, beyond the breakfast table, through the hall, to
lesser of their two living rooms. Here a bookshelf filled with
oldest paperbacks kept company with a suede beanbag and an
ottoman upon which Murdoch, their dachshund, lay collapsed in a
Is this for real? asked Kiki, but got no reply.
Levi was slicing strawberries, rinsing them and plopping them
into two cereal bowls. It was Howards job to catch their frowzy
heads for the trash. Just as they were finishing up this
Kiki turned the papers face down on the table, removed her hands
from her temples and laughed quietly.
Is something funny? asked Howard, moving to the breakfast
bar and resting his elbows on its top. In response, Kikis face
itself into impassive blackness. It was this sphinx-like
that sometimes induced their American friends to imagine a more
exotic provenance for her than she actually possessed. In fact
was from simple Florida country stock.
Excerpted from On Beauty, (c) 2005 Zadie Smith. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Press. All rights reserved.