Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays / by Zadie Smith

Even for an accomplished writer and scholar, Zadie Smith, English author of the award-winning White Teeth and the later novel On Beauty, is quite a literary aficionado. She's also quite culturally aware, having reviewed movies for the Guardian newspaper earlier in her career and possessing an instinct for connecting art and society. With a reading backlog of literally thousands of classic fiction masterpieces, read and re-read dozens of times--take her essay on Eliot's Middlemarch for example--Smith is truly a reader's writer while at the same time a peer-approved scholar, elucidating what the concept of an author's work represents. Her latest non-fiction foray into essay display's her acute eye for effectual material from personal, professional and atypical perspectives. References to obscure intellectuals as well as contemporary comedians and satirists, presidents and peasants, round out the author's fascinatingly broad assortment of subjects. Keen to be objective, and yet contrary in her judgement, Smith also reveals bits and pieces of herself along the way, exposing a diverse influence of legendary authors and figures including her mother right along with the aforementioned Eliot, E.M. Forster, Zora Neale Hurston, Fouceault, Spinoza, Nabokov, Lehrmontov, Barthes, Kafka and David Foster Wallace. You don't have to be a writer, scholar, critic or even that much of a heavy reader to appreciate Smith's amusing, anecdotal and self-reflective prose. Her essays on her family, her intimate and curiously professional relationship with her mother and her appreciation for her father and his wartime experiences, are candid, touching and sure to interest anyone. (824.914 SMITH)

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