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Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays [Kindle Edition]

Zadie Smith
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Changing My Mind is a collection of essays by Zadie Smith on literature, cinema, art - and everything in between.

'A supremely good read. Smith writes about reading and writing with such infectious zeal and engaging accessibility that it makes you want to turn up at her house and demand tutoring' Dazed and Confused

'Alarmingly good' Metro

'Striding with open hearted zest and eloquence between fiction (from EM Forster to David Foster Wallace) and travel, movies and comedy, family and community in a self-portrait that charts the evolution of a formidable talent. In lovely elegiac pieces on her late father Harvey, D-Day veteran and Tony Hancock fan, Smith also delivers some of the most affecting autobiographical writing in any form' Independent, Books of the Year

'Brilliant. She's friendly and conspiratorial, voicing the kind of clever theories we could imagine ourselves holding if only we were as articulate as Zadie Smith' Vogue

'Fascinating. Smith has the gift of showing you how she reads and thinks; watching her do it makes you feel smarter and more observant. Her account of her struggles as an author may be the most authentic, unglamorous description of novel-writing ever put on paper' Time

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975. Her debut novel, White Teeth, won the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Guardian First Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers' First Book Prize, and was included in TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Her second novel, On Beauty, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has written two further novels, The Autograph Man and NW, a collection of essays, Changing My Mind, and has edited a short-story collection, The Book of Other People.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2009: One of Zadie Smith's great gifts as a novelist is her openness: both to character and ideas in her stories, and to what a novel itself should be. That she's a novelist was clear as soon she broke through with White Teeth in her early twenties, but what kind she'll be (or will be next) seems open to change. Which all, along with her consistent intelligence, grace, and wit, makes her an ideal essayist too, especially for the sort of "occasional essays" collected for the first time in Changing My Mind. She can make the case equally for the cozy "middle way" of E.M. Forster and the most purposefully demanding of David Foster Wallace's stories, both as a reader and, you imagine, as a writer who is considering their methods for her own. The occasions in this book didn't only bring her to write about writers, though: she also investigates, among other subjects, Katherine Hepburn, Liberia, and Barack Obama (through the lens of Pygmalion), and, in the collection's finest piece, recalls her late father and their shared comedy snobbery. One wishes more occasions upon her. --Tom Nissley

About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in northwest London in 1975. She is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man and On Beauty, and of a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. She is also the editor of The Book of Other People. Smith is a graduate of Cambridge University and has taught at Harvard and Columbia universities. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1871 KB
  • Print Length: 312 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B003JTHRHI
  • Publisher: Penguin (November 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002ZJSU8S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,366 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and Thoughtful Essays November 30, 2009
In addition to her considerable talents as a novelist, Zadie Smith has been quietly assembling an impressive body of literary and cultural criticism over the past several years. Those pieces have been collected in this volume, a virtuosic demonstration of the workings of a first-class mind expressed in consistently lucid prose. Smith, who divides her time between New York and London, is an acute observer of contemporary culture, possessed also with the intellectual grounding to make her commentaries more than ephemera.

The first section of the volume consists of six scholarly essays on writers like Zora Neale Hurston (one of her early literary inspirations), Nabokov and Barthes, George Eliot, E.M. Forster and Kafka. The most intriguing (and perhaps controversial) piece in this section is one entitled "Two Directions for the Novel," in which she contrasts the lyrical realism of Joseph O'Neill's lavishly praised NETHERLAND with her preference for the "constructive deconstruction" of English novelist Tom McCarthy's experimental REMAINDER.

Smith's lecture, "Speaking in Tongues," the highlight of a section entitled "Being," is a moving meditation delivered only a few weeks after the election of Barack Obama. More than any other essay in the collection, this one puts her dazzling talents on full display. In it, she moves gracefully from the story of shedding the accent of her birth ("Willesden was a big, colorful, working-class sea; Cambridge was a smaller, posher pond, and almost univocal; the literary world is a puddle.") to a discussion of Pygmalion, to an incisive dissection of Obama's memoir. Along the way, she discourses on such subjects as Shakespeare, the religious wars of 17th-century England and Cary Grant. None of this feels as if it's calculated to showcase her erudition.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable and interesting journalistic essays August 14, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of Zadie Smith's novels, and thought she would be an interesting essayist. By and large my expectations were met. I really enjoyed parts of the book. I enjoyed her socio-political writing, in 'One Week in Liberia', her diary of a week spent in Liberia for Oxfam, and 'Speaking in Tongues', an essay on race and dialect. I also enjoyed her personal stories of her family and especially her father, in the 'Feeling' section of the book, especially 'Dead Man Laughing'. And I enjoyed her movie reviews as well as her account of Oscar weekend. The parts of the book I enjoyed less were those where she delves into literary theory, where her invocations of ideas from critical theory and philosophy feel extremely elliptical and vague, as well as not finding a distinctive or original voice of her own so clearly as in her other writing. The sweeping scope of the intellectual references may seem erudite to some, but their treatment is - perhaps inevitably in a collection of essays like this - rather superficial, and that frustrated me. For example, Smith brings up numerous times the postmodernist idea that language does not describe reality, without really doing anything to explain or motivate such a claim. The weaving together of (for example) Eliot and Spinoza feels a little studied and forced. Still, there is a lot to enjoy here, and even the sections on literature did inspire me to read some of her heroes; she communicates enthusiasm and passion for the literature she loves beautifully. Overall, I recommend this to fans of Smith as well as those who enjoy good journalistic writing of a middle-to-high-brow, non-specialist sort.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent January 4, 2010
Zadie Smith has established herself as one of the prominent novelists of the contemporary literature scene, but she is well on her way to establishing her reputation as a fine essayist. This collection of essays, gathered over the course of the last few years, proceed from erudite literature reviews, to politics, to film, and on to personal reflections from Smith's life. I found the pieces on literature the most compelling and brilliant; Smith's willingness to reassess her aesthetic commitments is a rare gift and an indicator of an active and sharp reader. Her review of David Foster Wallace's 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men,' is a fabulous ode to the late writer and close friend of Smith. Here she is able to give a nuanced reading of what made DFW so elusive and mystifying a writer. The essays in this volume very in quality, and Smith is prone to the kind of obscure intellectualizing of which she is so suspicious. Never the less, this collection is the mark of an open and promising interpreter of literature and cultural matters as a whole. I look forward to future work.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing All Our Minds December 3, 2009
As always, Smith writes not just with brain and spine, as her hero Nabokov urged, but with stomach too and heart and funny bone. Divided into five (not four) sections entitled "Reading," "Being," "Seeing," "Feeling," and "Remembering", the collection is eclectic, including travel journalism, family histories and movie reviews, which range from blow-your-mind brilliant to, in one or two cases, a little flat. But - and this is not a sentence you get to write too often - it's the lit crit that really sparkles. The essays about consuming and producing literature are what will earn this book a place on the shelf of every serious creative reader and writer. I loved, and learned from and yes, had my mind changed by, their forensic effervescence.

From The Creative Intelligence Blog by Orna Ross, author Lovers' Hollow & A Dance in Time
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Insanely good!
Published 16 days ago by dbutton
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by gary mcdonald
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag
I found these essays a mixed bag--some insightful and engaging, some not so much.
I did find them interesting enough that I listened all the way through.
Published 4 months ago by J. M. Walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Precious words.
I think Ms Smith is an extremely talented wordsmith but her essays can tend towards the precious.
Published 4 months ago by Dan
3.0 out of 5 stars Some insights into a writer's mind
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays is categorized into five sections: Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, and Remembering. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Martina A. Nicolls
2.0 out of 5 stars it does not make sence and is not a good read. Although most of the...
This book is confusing and uninteresting. Unless you have read the same obscure literary works referenced in each essay, it does not make sence and is not a good read. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Annie Kroo
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it.
As always, brilliant and deeply entertaining. Read it and many of the books it discussed.
Published 8 months ago by Steven M. Koes
5.0 out of 5 stars happy
I ordered this book for my daughter, what makes her happy is the affordability of it and it came on time plus the book is very neat and clean.....thanks guys :)
Published 9 months ago by Ma Socorro Harlow
4.0 out of 5 stars Some Real Gems
A collection of writings like this, spread across years of composition and categories of content and intent, is bound to be uneven. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Lyn Relph
1.0 out of 5 stars horrible horrible copy editing for Kindle edition
good book with some provocative essays, but my complaint here is with the Kindle edition.

every few pages there is a glaring copy editing problem, seems related to bad... Read more
Published on March 4, 2013 by Fred
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More About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in North West London in 1975 and continues to live in the area. She is currently working on a second novel.


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