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Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays Paperback – October 26, 2010
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Zadie Smith was born in Northwest London in 1975 and still lives in the area. She is the author of White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, Changing My Mind, NW, and most recently, Swing Time.
Top customer reviews
The selections here cover a broad range of topics, from trips she took to Liberia and the Oscars (not at the same time) to three funny and touching essays about her family. But it is her writings on art that really shine. She shows great insight into the writings of Forster, Eliot, Barthes, Nabokov, and Kafka; in fact, I think the first seven essays are required reading for any aspiring writer. But she also brings a keen eye to cinema, with a wonderful essay about Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo, and even stand-up comedy in an essay about her younger brother's surprisingly (to her) successful foray into that field.
I read one essay each morning, and after the first one I woke up every day excited about reading the next. That is probably the best endorsement I can give this book. But Ms Smith has also inspired me to discover new works, like Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, and re-discover some others. Middlemarch and Everybody is a sharp essay on the philosophy of the famous novel, and not only did it make me want to re-read it immediately, it also inspired me in my own writing. The essay entitled Hepburn and Garbo spurred me to run out and rent the Philadelphia Story. And the final piece, part eulogy and part reading guide, has inspired me to give David Foster Wallace's difficult fiction one more try.
After reading this book, I cannot wait for her next novel.
While there are some good pieces, this collection certainly doesn't represent what Smith is capable of.