Zadie Smith is one of the hottest and most acclaimed authors out there. She’s the author of White Teeth, which she wrote while in her last year of university. It is considered a modern classic and has been included in Time Magazine’s 100 Best English Novels from 1923 to 2005. She’s half Jamaican and half English. Currently a tenured professor at NYU, she shuttles her time between London and New York. She has a loving husband and child. She’s brilliant, accomplished, and she’s only 36. Zadie Smith’s a literary lion and she’s got a new book out this fall.
NW is her much anticipated novel that is currently out making the rounds in bookstores and airport kiosks – EVERYWHERE. I’ve also been anticipating this new release ever since I read the New Yorker short story, Permission to Enter, which came out earlier this summer. It’s a dense and powerful piece I turned over quickly but thought about for days. It’s seemingly a short story about two friends growing up, growing apart, and growing together. Yet, it’s more. There seems to be a thread of contrast and comparison between two characters, the narrator and her childhood friend, choosing and changing identities. Identities matter and so do their shifts. The ones you reject, the ones you have and can’t let go of, and the ones you wrap around yourself to define yourself. These stories coalesce, and eventually, what lasts is who they tell themselves they are. If the short story is any indication of what the book will be like, I can’t wait to take some time to get through it.
I’ve read mixed reviews on NW. There has been some hue and cry surrounding Michiko Kakutani’s review of NW which was not at all complementary. However, the underlying criticism appears to be that Zadie Smith is an excellent writer who has written NW below her talents. In any case, I’m fairly certain Smith at her worst is far better than most average authors at their best. Zadie will be making an appearance with another famed author, Michael Chabon, at the New Yorker festival on October 1st. If you’re one of the lucky ones who snagged tickets, I’m jealous and want to know how it goes.
This week’s September 24th issue of the New Yorker also features a review of The Collective by Don Lee in the Briefly Noted section. The premise appears to be about two Korean-American college friends who manage the theme of cultural identities in divergent ways. One accuses the other of embracing ‘white’ culture and criticizes the “mainstream interpretations of Asians” while the other, presumably, does not. I haven’t read the book but am very intrigued and want to read more. The Collective may not be as well publicized as NW, but I get the feeling there might be insights into politicized racial and cultural identities that may be just as interesting as the one NW might have.
Have you read NW or The Collective? If so, let me know what you think below!