Matchmaker Matchmaker

{Five Chapters into White Teeth}

Debby: “…Every time I learn something more about him, I like him less,” Alsana tells her audience emphatically. I found this entire dialogue in the park both utterly amusing and surprisingly thoughtful. The author has given us two sets of extremely unique individuals and paired them in both matrimony and parenthood. Yet, the men seem more of a “couple” than do Archie and Clara or Alsana and Iqbal. Both marriages are, in a sense, arranged: one by family, the other by fate. Neither couple understands their partner to any degree. I like where the author is going with this. Clara “chose” to marry Archie, but it was out of desperation– a desire to get away from her old life. Does that mean it really was her choice? And does that make her relationship mean any more or less than Alsana and Iqbal’s? These are extremely interesting questions to ask, given our modern perspective of marriage, romance, and free will in love.

Tim: Huh, this isn’t where I went with this scene at all, I think because I didn’t see Clara’s marriage to Archie in the same “arranged” light that you did (and yes, I know you’re being figurative). But I do see the parallels that could be said to come from a pair of hasty decisions. Their respective marriage situations ensure that each woman will pretty constantly be learning about their husband, with no guarantee that she will like what she finds. Which I suppose is true for anyone, but taken to a bit of an extreme here. Another bit related to this that’s pretty funny: I don’t think you’ve gotten to this part quite yet, but Archie and Iqbal’s friendship begins when they’re both part of the same tank crew in WWII. Archie is shocked when he discovers that Iqbal’s promised wife (from the arrangement between his parents and Alsana’s) hasn’t even been born yet.

Debby: Spoiler alert?? I’m sure I’ll get there soon. Iqbal is currently addressing Archie over his unfaltering stares. I don’t know if guys ever think about arranged marriages, but I’ve had many a discussion with my girlfriends about whether it would be easier to just say “Screw it, find me a husband family/friends” and go with whoever they pick. Relationships are so unnecessarily complicated. The more you learn about someone, the more you realize that you will never completely understand them. So in some sense, Alsana is brilliant: the less you know, the less you have to dislike. It keeps the peace and harmony, by forgoing intimacy.

Tim: Yeah, that sound pretty awful. And after you say, “Screw it,” you still have to find a way to live with that person. Anyways. I’m not sure I have more to say on the subject, but I have continued to enjoy the book. We had worried before it might turn too Goon Squad-y and it does seem to be avoiding the schizophrenic jump to a new person every chapter now. Actually, I read the synopsis on the back cover for the first time just a little while ago, and I’m all the more intrigued.

“Dealing with – among many other things – friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations, and the tricky way the past has of coming back and biting you on the ankle…”

Debby: Hmm. I don’t know when I last read the back of a book. Who writes those things? Clearly not the author, since the language never sounds the same as the book. Should be interesting to see where the story heads. I like that they’re going back into deal about WWII… always nice to have the historical details. OH! I have one more thing I wanted to ask you: What do you think of Clara’s dialect? I’ve been mentally comparing it to Janie Crawford’s speech in Zora Kneale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. The trouble is, I have a tough time seeing it as a realistic way to talk. Like some of the phrases seem really overdone or unnecessarily quirky.

Tim: I really agree with that! I remember my English teacher in high school warning us about the “difficult to understand” phonetic writing in Their Eyes Were Watching God and having no trouble with it whatsoever. Clara’s much more difficult to decipher. It hasn’t quite been an impediment to me yet, but certainly an annoyance.

Debby: Glad I’m not alone in feeling that way. I think that about sums up all I had to say. Looking forward to really digging in this week and getting through a good chunk of the novel.

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