Excerpt from On Beauty by Zadie Smith, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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On Beauty

by Zadie Smith

On Beauty
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2005, 464 pages
    Aug 2006, 464 pages

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‘But the exact opposite of what I want,’ considered Howard, rocking in his chair, ‘is what always fucking happens.’

Kiki stopped what she was doing. ‘Right. Because you never get what you want. Your life is just an orgy of deprivation.’ This nodded at the recent trouble. It was an offer to kick open a door in the mansion of their marriage leading on to an antechamber of misery. The offer was declined. Kiki instead began that familiar puzzle of getting her small knapsack to sit in the middle of her giant back.

Howard stood up and rearranged himself decently in his bathrobe. ‘Do we have their address at least?’ he asked. ‘Home address?’

Kiki pressed her fingers to each temple like a carnival mindreader. She spoke slowly, and, though the pose was sarcastic, her eyes were wet.

‘I want to understand what it is you think we’ve done to you. Your family. What is it we’ve done? Have we deprived you of something?’

Howard sighed and looked away. ‘I’m giving a paper in Cambridge on Tuesday anyway – I might as well fly to London a day earlier, if only to – ’

Kiki slapped the table. ‘Oh, God, this isn’t hapening – Jerome can marry who the hell he wants to marry – or are we going to start making up visiting cards and asking him to meet only the daughters of academics that you happen to – ’

‘Might the address be in the green moleskin?’ Now she blinked away the possibility of tears. ‘I don’t know where the address might be,’ she said, impersonating his accent. ‘Find it yourself. Maybe it’s hidden underneath the crap in that damn hovel of yours.’

‘Thanks so much,’ said Howard and began his return journey up the stairs to his study.

Excerpted from On Beauty, (c) 2005 Zadie Smith. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Press. All rights reserved.

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