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Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie…
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Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays (2009)

by Zadie Smith

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I absolutely love Zadie Smith but this collection of essays was a mixed bag. The first essay, “Their Eyes Were Watching God: What Does Soulful mean,” was especially good mostly because I just read the Zora Neale Hurston book in July. I appreciated almost every word Smith had to say on the subject. Essays about Nabokov, Barthes, Kafka and especially David Foster Wallace….not so much. The Wallace essay was downright deadly boring and long. Just terrible.

The essay about Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo was absolutely fascinating. So much I never knew about these women was brought out beautifully by Smith. And her essay entitled “Smith Family Christmas” was wonderful and this passage really hit home:

”Santa help me but I believe this too. You know you believe it when you start your own little family with some person you met four years ago in a bar, and then he tries to open the presents on Christmas Eve because that’s what he did in his family and you have the strong urge to run screaming from the building holding your banner about the end and how it is nigh. It is a moving and comic thing---a Murdochian scuffle between the Real and the Dream---to watch a young couple as they teeter around the Idea of Christmas, trying to avoid internecine festive warfare.”

So like many essay collections this one had its ups and downs but on the whole was really quite good. Recommended. ( )
  brenzi | Sep 8, 2018 |
Interesting, but so much of it was so trivial. Honestly, Zadie Smith is an amazing writer, but I still don't care what she thought about Memoirs of a Geisha. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Not sure how to review a book of essays, but I'll just say that I thoroughly enjoyed this. Even the somewhat lighter pieces like the movie reviews and Hollywood tales were by turns funny and intriguing esp. the portraits of Katherine Hepburn and Greta Garbo.

The best parts were about writing and rules for novelists and also the essays about other writers and other books. The main ones being about Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, George Eliot's Middlemarch, Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin, Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, Tom McCarthy's Remainder (which might also contain #ASMRinFiction if the reference to the main character's tingling sensation means what I think it means) and David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Most of those I have never read but Smith's essays make all them sound intriguing. And I'm even more interested in reading those books of Smith's that I've missed along the way. ( )
  alanteder | Apr 25, 2018 |
My idea of escapist reading these days is something that requires my attention and engages me all the way, so I'm on a nonfiction kick—which is probably working too well, because I'm having trouble tearing myself away long enough to do a whole bunch of work reading I need to take care of at home, and now have it all piled up for this weekend. Oh well, at least it's a long weekend and I can do both.

I got into this one in anticipation of reading her new novel once I'm in a fiction-y mood again. The essays here weren’t particularly pertinent to anything in my life—I don’t care about the posthumous disposition of Kafka’s work, and I never really got on the David Foster Wallace train—but I like seeing how she does her reviewing, what's in her toolbox. She does a lot of thinking on her pages, and it veered close to being a vanity production in a lot of places, but I still enjoy watching her do it. ( )
  lisapeet | Nov 23, 2016 |
Interesting, but so much of it was so trivial. Honestly, Zadie Smith is an amazing writer, but I still don't care what she thought about Memoirs of a Geisha. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
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A volume of essays is comprised of top-selected pieces from the past decade and considers a broad range of topics organized under such main categories as "Reading," "Being," "Seeing," and "Feeling."

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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