In preparation for an essay I’ll be writing for the National Book Critics Circle blog, Critical Mass, I’ve dusted off my copy of White Teeth: A Novel, gifted to me by my friend Donna Daley-Clarke (whose amazing novel Lazy Eye came out in March from MacAdam/Cage) when I was living in London, at about the time of publication in 2000. I remember it as being “very London now” and am curious to see what I think of it reading it for the second time in my sub-tropical island home. So far so good, as the first few lines of the book nearly reach out and grab your attention with two firm, funny, and dexterous fists–so good I had to share:

“Early in the morning, late in the century, Cricklewood Broadway. At 06.27 hours on 1 January 1975, Archie Archibald Jones was dressed in corduroy and sat in a fume-filled Cavalier Musketeer Estate face down on the steering wheel, hoping the judgement would not be too heavy upon him. He lay forward in a prostrate cross, jaw slack, arms splayed either side like some fallen angel; scrunched up in each fist he held his army service medals (left) and his marriage license (right), for he had decided to take his mistakes with him. A little green light flashed in his eye, signalling a right turn he had resolved never to make. He was resigned to it. He was prepared for it. He had flipped a coin and stood staunchly by its conclusions. This was a decided-upon suicide. In fact it was a New Year’s resolution.”