Winner of the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
A New York Times Notable Book
From Zadie Smith, one of the most beloved authors of her generation, a new collection of essays
Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world's preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right.
Arranged into five sections--In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free--this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network--and Facebook itself--really about? "It's a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore." Why do we love libraries? "Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay." What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? "So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we'd just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes--and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat."
Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, "Joy," and, "Find Your Beach," Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive--and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith.
Zadie Smith's new book, Grand Union, is on sale 10/8/2019.
British actress Amuka-Bird channels both the public persona and literary essence of novelist and essayist Smith in giving voice to this sprawling collection of nonfiction works. The essays vary in topic and include criticism of visual and literary arts, musings on pop culture, and incisive takes on current politics on both sides of the Atlantic; Amuka-Bird handles the sometimes swift transitions gracefully. She adds an especially evocative touch in her reading of Smith's works that tackle racial and cultural identity. For Smith's experimental piece on the tortured life of music legend Billie Holiday, which is written from the first-person perspective of Holiday, Amuka-Bird provides a chilling rendition of the singer's bluesy, conversational cadence. When Smith recounts recent interviews with entertainers such as rapper Jay-Z and comedian and director Jordan Peele, Amuka-Bird doesn't shy away from adding biting edges to their voices. Not every piece of this stylistically wide-ranging collection translates easily into the audio format, but Amuka-Bird's talent cannot be denied. A Penguin hardcover.