Posts tagged zadie smith
Zadie Smith reads Frank O’Hara’s “Animals”

The Coudal Partners site is an old jewelry box of hidden gems, including a Verse by Voice section where people call in to read poems over voicemail; this is Zadie Smith reading Frank O’Hara's “Animals.” I've been listening to it every couple of minutes for the last hour or so. There is something almost unbearably sad in her voice, and grave in her delivery, that is a perfect match for the poem, especially in the way she rises to the finish just before the break between these two lines:

O you
were the best of all my days

Reading: Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith on E. M. Forster: 

Forster's novels are full of people who'd think twice before borrowing a Forster novel from the library. Well—they'd want to know—is it worth the bother or not?

On George Eliot:

In order to be attentive to Fred, Eliot had to take the long way round. It was a philosopher, Spinoza, who first convinced her of the importance of experience. It was theory that brought her to practice. These days, writer of ideas has become a term of abuse: we think "Ideas" are the opposite of something we call "Life." It wasn't that way with Eliot. In fact, her ability to animate ideas is so acute she is able to fool the great Henry James into believing Fred Vincy a commonplace young man who has wandered into Middlemarch with no purpose, when really nothing could be further from the truth.

On Zora Neale Hurston:

She grew up a fully human being, unaware that she was meant to consider herself a minority, an other, an exotic or something depleted in rights, talents, desires, and expectations. As an adult, away from Eatonville, she found the world was determined to do its best to remind her of her supposed inferiority, but Hurston was already made, and the metaphysical confidence she claimed for her life ("I am not tragically colored") is present, with equal, refreshing force, in her fiction. She liked to yell "Culllaaaah Struck!" when she entered a fancy party—almost everybody was. But Hurston herself was not. "Blackness," as she understood it and wrote about it, is as natural and inevitable and complete to her as, say, "Frenchness" is to Flaubert. It is also as complicated, as full of blessings and curses. One can be no more removed from it than from one's arm, but it is no more the total measure of one's being than an arm is.

I love how she speaks of these writers like close, treasured, flawed, wonderful friends. Zadie Smith is one of those rare people who, the more you read her, and the more you read about her, the more you want to know.

+ Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

Reading: On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Prompted by a conversation with Chips last week, I started reading this over the weekend. You can now add me to the Zadie Smithconverts: this book is a December surprise that's been sitting on my bookshelf since October. It's marvelous. How nice to not be disappointed after all the hype for once (it's been a disappointing year for me, book-wise and hype-wise). The comedy doesn't scream COMEDY (I prefer it when the humor flows from the line, you know?), and the drama is human, not melodramatic. Of course, I'm far less interested in plot details than the average Joe, and such a sucker for pretty writing, so what do I know. But I'm finding the writing careful, clever, and well tended; thus far (p. 157), pitch perfect. Even the trivial details:

Up there behind glass the ideal people were exercising; down here the misshapen people were floating around, hoping. Twice a week this dynamic changed when the swim team graced the pool with their magnificence, relegating Zora and everyone else to the practice pool to share lanes with infants and senior citizens. Swim-team people launched themselves from the edge, remade their bodies in the image of darts, and then entered the pool like something the water had been waiting for and gratefully accepted. People like Zora sat carefully down on the gritty tiles, gave the water only their feet and then had a debate with their bodies about committing to the next stage. It was not at all unusual for Zora to get undressed, walk the pool, look at the athletes, sit down, put her toes in, get back up, walk the pool, look at the athletes, get dressed and leave the building.
On Beauty
By Zadie Smith