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28

WEDNESDAY

Michiko Kakutani loved her. Salman Rushdie loved her. Even Elle magazine loved her. Young aspiring writers, however, regardless of what they thought of Zadie Smith’s prose, loved to hate her. Or maybe that was just me. At 24, Smith followed through on a book deal drawn up while she was still a student at King’s College, Cambridge, and presented her debut novel, White Teeth, to a slew of praise, a handful of awards, and a warm, best-selling welcome. What a relief when, two years later, in 2002, her second novel, The Autograph Man, suffered a puzzled, disappointed reception. Now she gives us her third: On Beauty, a reimagining of Howard’s End that portrays the intersecting worlds of two opposed Rembrandt scholars and their families. Smith is still only 29; at 25, I think I’m finally willing to admit that perhaps White Teeth’s success wasn’t just beginner’s luck. Elle and Rushdie were right. And Kakutani is calling this new one “glorious.” Smith reads at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books and Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Rebecca Corvino)