NW by Zadie Smith: it’s a rich and confusing blend. The story of the lives of four people living in northwest London, it is difficult to read. Written in a blend of styles that perhaps mirrors the multicultural society it is about, it is nevertheless full of keen observations about race and class identity, friendships and love relationships.
Sweet stink of the hookah, couscous, kebab, exhaust fumes of a bus deadlock. 98, 16, 32, standing room only — quicker to walk! Escapees from St. Mary’s, Paddington: expectant father smoking, old lady wheeling herself in a wheelchair smoking, die-hard holding urine sack, blood sack, smoking. Everybody loves fags. Everybody. Polish paper, Turkish paper, Arabic, Irish, French, Russian, Spanish, News of the World. Unlock your (stolen) phone, buy a battery pack, a lighter pack, a perfume pack, sunglasses, three for a fiver, a life-size porcelain tiger, gold taps … A hundred and one ways to take cover: the complete black tent, the facial grid, back of the head, Louis Vuitton-stamped, Gucci-stamped, yellow lace attached to sunglasses, hardly on at all, striped, candy pink; paired with tracksuits, skin-tight jeans, summer dresses, blouses, vests, gypsy skirts, flares. Bearing no relation to the debates in the papers, in parliament.
168. African minimart endgame
She had a new urge for something other than pure forward momentum. She wanted to conserve. To this end, she began going in search of the food of her childhood. On Saturday mornings, straight after vising the enormous British supermarket, she struggled up the high road with two children in a double buggy and no help to the little African minimart to buy things like yam and salted cod and plantain. It was raining. Horizontal rain. Both children were screaming. Could there be misery loftier than hers?
… Natalie Blake had completely forgotten what it was like to be poor. It was a language she’d stopped being able to speak, or even to understand.
The music of the movie Pulp Fiction. A second disk in the package has director Quentin Tarantino talking about how he personally chooses music for his movies. He is unapologetic about his love for seventies music and, listening to these tracks, I am right back there with him. From the opening track, Misirlou by Dick Dale & His Del-Tones (started off by a few lines from Pumpkin and Honeybunny as they hold up the diner), to the wonderful Dusty Springfield version of Son of a Preacher Man that plays when John Travolta as Vincent Vega goes to pick up Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) to the completely perfect Urge Overkill version of Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon — well, it’s hard to pick a favourite. If you’re not somewhere you can dance to it, it’s great driving music.