on beauty

She prepared a face to meet the faces that she met

“She found it difficult, this thing of being alone, awaiting the arrival of a group. She prepared a face—as her favorite poet had it—to meet the faces that she met, and it was a procedure that required time and forewarning to function properly. In fact, when she was not in company it didn’t seem to her that she had a face at all… And yet in college, she was famed for being opinionated, a ‘personality’—the truth was she didn’t take these public passions home, or even out of the room, in any serious way. She didn’t feel she had any real opinions, or at least not in the way other people seemed to have them. Once the class was finished she saw at once how she might have argued the thing just as viciously and successfully the other way round; defended Flaubert over Foucault; rescued Austen from insult instead of Adorno. Was anyone ever genuinely attached to anything? She had no idea.”

—Zadie Smith, On Beauty