Before we start getting matchy-matchy, an observation! First, we are a terminally apologetic group of people (mostly women, for what it's worth! male participants appear far more likely to say I ENJOYED HOUSE OF LEAVES, THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION). I'm not mad, or anything, but it is never necessary to feel ashamed of enjoying Book A instead of Book B. The book is there to please you, not the other way around (please take this thought with you when trying on clothes.) You can be wrong, of course. You can incorrectly dislike an objectively wonderful book, and that book is therefore wasted on you and the little birds shall weep, but as we are trying to find a fourth book for your personal enjoyment, that matters little.
AND NOW, TO THE QUESTION AT HAND.
Reader churlishgreen has offered us the following three collections of smoking entrails for our prognostications:
1. The Believers, Zoe Heller – If I were the Sorting Hat, this is what I would be whispering to you, LM: "Hmmmm, funny, but highbrow. An English writer, but an American setting."
2. Happy All the Time, Laurie Colwin – "Ah, love, but without too much sturm und drang. A picture emerges!"
3. Nice Work, David Lodge – "Yes. Humor and academia, that's what you want. That's the ticket. Three modern-y comic novels, some love, with a bit of an edge, and a dash of class preoccupation."
What shall I offer you?
On Beauty, Zadie Smith – It is a tribute to the goodness of this book that I am capable of recommending it, as it was partly inspired by how little Zadie Smith enjoyed teaching a fiction workshop I took with her. We were the worst sort of Rushdie-Reading-Attendees imaginable, and undergraduates are generally awful and completely preoccupied with their own dying relationships and overweening ambition. Maybe that was just me? One of us (certainly not me) has written a tremendously enjoyable novel, though, and we will be interviewing her in July!
Smith is a very, very good novelist, and this is her best book. White Teeth is obviously fun-fun-fun-fun, but On Beauty is accomplished and funny and sad and moving and tremendously ON about the weirdness of the modern university and the people who inhabit it. To hedge my bets, if you have already read and disliked On Beauty, one can never, ever, ever go wrong with Lucky Jim, the funniest comic novel EVER WRITTEN. AND, of course, the introduction to this version is written by David Lodge himself, BOOM, PWNED.
Your turn! Tell us you hated On Beauty. Tell her you love Happy All the Time too. Whatever you want.
Image courtesy of this woman, who seems to make very interesting cakes.