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November 11, 2009 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Nabokov, Meet 50 Cent: Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind. "Those who have been paying attention to Zadie Smith since her White Teeth debut likely already know about her affinities for E.M. Forster, Lil Wayne, George Eliot, Kafka, and Fawlty Towers. She's one of probably three working writers capable of smuggling a riff on the perils of "keeping it real" into The New York Review of Books."
posted by geoff. (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've read at least three of the pieces included in that book. Changing My Mind is one of those rare books that I will run out to fork over whatever absurd price is stuck on the hardcover. Smith is one of the preeminent forces at work in literature today. Gawd, I fantasize about running into her a bar somewhere and having an hour or so of conversation before she has to cab to the airport.
posted by barrett caulk at 9:22 AM on November 11, 2009


What horrific celebrity worship.

Like her rhetorical comrade Barack Obama, Smith doesn't just speak for her variegated experience as a 34-year-old critic, rap fan, global citizen, comedy connoisseur, cinema dilettante, black woman, reluctant professor, and, lest we forget, virtuoso novelist—she speaks the experience itself.

Personally, I don't just speak for my variegated experience as a woman, person who lives in London, PR person, lover of TV, visitor to the cinema, reluctant performer of housework and, lest we forget, drinker of tea, I speak the experience itself.
posted by Summer at 9:35 AM on November 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Someone likes "high-brow" literature and "low-brow" hip-hop. At the SAME TIME. Stop the presses!
posted by naju at 9:48 AM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


She's one of probably three working writers capable of smuggling a riff on the perils of "keeping it real"

Is that because the rest of them know that phrase, and "riffing" on that phrase, got really tired around 2002, and now even saying it makes you sound like an out-of-touch trying-too-hard old person?
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:54 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gawd, I fantasize about running into her a bar somewhere and having an hour or so of conversation before she has to cab to the airport.

Gawd. I don't. White Teeth was perfectly good, but one of the most over-hyped debuts in years.

Terrible VV piece...it's just so breathless.
posted by rhymer at 9:57 AM on November 11, 2009


Is that because the rest of them know that phrase, and "riffing" on that phrase,

It was better than the phrase they used when reviewing Nicholas Kristof's last book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide:

"In the meantime, and to press for change, Kristof invites us all to bear witness with him, no homo."
posted by geoff. at 10:08 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm with rhymer. I could barely get past the smug, hyperbolic title of that piece. Gross.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:32 AM on November 11, 2009


Someone likes "high-brow" literature and "low-brow" hip-hop. At the SAME TIME. Stop the presses!

This. I really liked White Teeth, but Zadie Smith's nonfiction "riffing" does little for me and I can't stand the unctuous sort of breathlessness it inspires in the sort of circles where it's maybe still news that there are actually pop musicians and cartoonists who consider their chosen medium to be an art form without qualifiers.

A friend of mine who's been a comic-book nut from way back used to get sent one of those Time Magazine-type trendspotting features about graphic novels with a headline like "Bang! Pow! Zap! Think? - Comic Books Not Just For Kids and Crumb-Dusted Basement-Dwelling Antisocials Anymore!" by well-meaning older family members from time to time. It's like that - Zadie Smith's like a pair of kid gloves you send to the NYRB faithful in honour of their 50th anniversary as subscribers so they can handle the hip-hop and TV satire without getting any on them. You never can be too careful and you don't know where that junk has been, you know?
posted by gompa at 11:00 AM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I got a fair way into the piece before deciding that it wasn't a Private Eye-style send-up of someone. The caption on the picture sent me in the wrong direction.

For what it's worth, everything I've read by her has been good. But that was a weird weird article, like a particularly sycophantic obituary for someone who's a long way from dead.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 11:41 AM on November 11, 2009


Oh god that was dirty. Kind of like being cornered by a friend of the family who wants to tell you about how viagra has changed his life.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:56 AM on November 11, 2009


Gawd. I don't. White Teeth was perfectly good, but one of the most over-hyped debuts in years.

Terrible VV piece...it's just so breathless.
posted by rhymer at 12:57 PM on November 11 [+] [!]
Just finished On Beauty. Just fine I guess, but the dialogue was labored at times (and boy howdy do I know about labored dialogue) and, well, she doesn't add much to the "men are pigs", "black people sometimes feel out of place in white communities", and "academics are hypocrites" tropes that have been done well by others. I suppose there was some pretty interesting insight into the black mainstream vs. black conservative debate though.

Don't believe the hype.

<--awesome hip-hop reference. Where's my VV piece?
posted by GodricVT at 1:17 PM on November 11, 2009


Here's my impression of every review ever written of an author under 35:

He/she can reference [theorist or philosopher] and [pop culture figure] in one sentence!!! LOL!! :)<I?
posted by roll truck roll at 2:16 PM on November 11, 2009


oops
posted by roll truck roll at 2:16 PM on November 11, 2009


Zadie is a marvelous writer one of the few who actually could get away with copping material from Nabokov and not having it stand out too grotesquely. But as a novelist, she's got a dead serious problem with narrative flow. Her dialogue is wonderful and her sentences usually satisfy. I always love the page I'm reading, but rarely feel the need to turn to the next one. She should really set herself the problem of writing an airport bestseller with a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. The exercise would really help her.
posted by Faze at 2:56 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yet another modern author that it seems I can safely continue to ignore.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:10 PM on November 11, 2009


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