What do they say on beauty
Of course the thick-as-a-brick novel has a lot of sub-themes. The 2nd generation come in and out. Politics among departments of Humanities in a Bostonian academy is another unavoidable backdrop. But to me it's all about the dysfunctional
relationship between the mid-age couple. The irony is that there is still love in this marriage. Is Zadie trying to reveal that long term matrimony is out of place? No matter how two people care for each other, they can't pull their marriage through the sacred laws such as exclusiveness and frankness? She seems to provide a solution to the woman who walks out of her vow at the end of the book: staying with another woman. It surely is based on real life examples. Like the jcrew creative director: smart woman, social status established, who finds a new form of love after her long-time opposite-sex marriage ended. But this scenario is no more than being indicated in the novel. in the final chapter, our Casanova-like yet academically ill-fated protagonist, Howard, is granted his last chance of tenure evaluation. The Rembrandt specialist is giving a public lecture. from the begining, He already loses control of emotion by playing the slides without giving out a word except for reading out the artwork titles. The last slide is an epic capture of an intimate moment of the artist's lover, called hendrickje bathing. At the moment, Howard sees his divorced wife, his life-time lover Kiki in the audience. He starts to be able to interpret her every single reaction in the glow of love. The many layers of emotion he sees in her melt into a soft descriptional paragraph about the many tonalites and strokes observed off
the portrait. Hendrickje's half-hidden left hand leaves the untold moments of intimation to the viewers to imagine.
The title On Beauty is also the title of a sample work by the liberal-minded poety professor in the novel. Given that the majority of the characters are humanities intellects who study ON human's creative heritages, the book title is an ironic question thrown at every humanities thinker as what they study is essentially a study on Beauty (an invented value found by human) and whether/how it affects human life in any historical time.