How often do you visit the dentist? – White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Surely, Irie ain't Lolita material. Now, I'm not so sure.

“But like all things, the business has two sides. Clean white teeth are not always wise, now are they? Par exemplum: when I was in the Congo, the only way I could identify the nigger was by the whiteness of his teeth, if you see what I mean. Horrid business. Dark as buggery, it was. And they died because of it, you see? Poor bastards. Or rather I survived, to look at it in another way, do you see?”

So would you still brush your teeth every after meal? And what about people who do not have naturally white teeth? Is it in vain that they brush for hours in an attempt to achieve that pearly whiteness? And what of smokers? Do they instantly quit smoking?

And we only have two set of teeth. The first set we ignore. How can we be immediately conscious of our teeth when early memories rarely find an image of us checking our budding milk teeth. And yet, we retain the sharp sting of pain malevolently wrought by toothache. With teeth, you only have one chance. Once they are permanent, be on the look out for remnants of sweet starchy food. And it is such an irony that we call them permanent teeth when they can be easily knocked out by an unforeseeable accident or the sudden blow of a clenched fist directed to the mouth.

And please don’t get me started on malocclusions. I have a 3mm misaligned lower canine that’s taking forever to move to its supposed place. Yes, I am an adult on stupid braces for those who haven’t seen me yet. It’s something that I have delayed for more or less three years, and seriously, I don’t really know if it’s worth it. Could be that straight teeth are not always wise?

Or could be that teeth are not always wise? “Come de end of de world, d’Lord won’t mind if I have no toofs.” And why all this talk about teeth when the novel is barely related, strictly, to orthodontics? I think I have misled you so far now, so let me say something about it.

When I first encountered this novel, I imagined it to be a horrifying drama. So when I bought my copy and read from the back blurb the words “funny” and “big-hearted”, I got a little suspicious but still interested. What’s so funny about it?

The dialogues are witty, the descriptions are vibrant, and the flow of the words are filled with zest. It’s irresistible. If you really want to know, I’ve been staying up later than usual so that I could just read more than my alloted time. Crazier than that is that I hear myself literally LOL-ing, which I haven’t experienced for ages.

But surely, this isn’t just a mere slapstick show of a novel. It’s about these two friends, Archie and Samad, and their families. They met during the second world war, went their own ways, and met again in London after three decades to resume a friendship forged as the world leaders realized that the war has to stop. We chronicle their past, their misdoings, their idiosyncrasies.

There’s a bit of war (driving a bridge tank through Eastern Europe), of religion (to masturbate or to not masturbate), of marriage (teachers hitting on middle-aged men), of nerdiness (why the sky is not blue), of color (interracial marriage), and lots of things. And it’s big on fun and friendship.

The novel is divided into four parts, each part representing a major character. I’m done now with the parts about the fathers, Archie and Samad, and soon I’ll be reading about Irie and Magid, the respective kids. Two more huge parts ahead but already, I am all smiles with this novel.

Date Started: May 7, 2012. 12:30 AM. Book #26 of 2012.