I raced off to the library to pick up more Zadie Smith after finishing White Teeth and ended up with this collection of “accidental” essays, rejecting two of her other novels after brief perusal. It seems like White Teeth was a bit of a flash in the pan, or a serious collaboration with a skilled editor, because the other books quickly disintegrated in my hand, beginning with a batch of emails. No one wants to read a book that begins with emails. No one.
Anyway, her essays offer a bit of consolation, and her voice occasionally rings out strong and clear. But she almost lost me in the first section on Reading, continually clanging the bell of star writers and invoking them over and over and over: DFW, Kafka, Nabokov. She devotes the entire last essay to Wallace, mimicking his “w/r/t” and overabundance of footnotes. It’s tedious.
I picked up a few book recs from her, Zora Neale Hurston’s biography by Valerie Boyd and the Kafka bio by Begley. The best essays were those on Liberia and Katherine Hepburn. Needing to fill out the book, she padded it with 30+ pages of old cinema reviews for such duds like Date Movie and Proof.
For the most part, the title is apt. I’ve changed my mind about Zadie’s writing.