The fat sun stalls by the phone masts. Anti-climb paint turns sulphurous on school gates and lampposts. In Willesden people go barefoot, the streets turn European, there is a mania for eating outside. She keeps to the shade. Redheaded. On the radio: I am the sole author of the dictionary that defines me. A good line—write it out on the back of a magazine. In a hammock, in the garden of a basement flat. Fenced in, on all sides.
this essay is on the extremely, almost invisible fine line of being totally based on a brilliant concept and totally based on a lame concept. like, for example, are Obama and Smith the only two successful biracial people in the world. like, for example is biracialness new? like for example, they both are amazing, and progressive, and shouldn’t we give them their due with a game of “notice ‘n’ compare”? can they just be?
Consider the parallels between the two: both are biracial (Zadie Smith had a white English father and a black Jamaican mother). Both are precocious strivers who came from somewhat déclassé origins and rose to become shining examples of their respective countries’ meritocratic aspirations (Zadie Smith grew up in a council flat, the English equivalent of a housing project, and received a scholarship to Oxford). Both give evidence of having been closer to their white parent. Both seem to promise liberation from the bad faith that has existed on both sides of the color line since the start of the post-civil rights era. Both are figures who because they smoothly speak the language of progressivism (in Smith’s case, the language of progressivism is the language of avant-garde literature and abstruse academic theory) appear–or in the case of Obama, appeared–less cautious and conservative than they really are. Changing My Mind is the title of Zadie Smith’s collection of what she calls ‘occasional essays;’ it might as well be titled ‘Only Connect,’ to use the credo of her beloved E.M.Forster’s Howards End–like Forster and like Obama, Zadie Smith is a builder of bridges and a reconciler of the seemingly irreconcilable.
a short, new essay from Zadie Smith
in its entirety, here.
I met Christine at a bus stop. We both carried violas. Not just nerds but black nerds, female viola-playing black nerds. Christine was at least discreet: wasp-waisted Nigerian form neat in sensible skirt suits. I had less instinct for self-preservation.
“I think a good book review is a place to meet a book on its own terms, not as an ideological vehicle or an academic plaything.”