60. Fascinated to Presume: Zadie Smith’s Powerful Essay on Fiction

“I have closed novels and stared at their back covers for a long moment and felt known in a way I cannot honestly say I have felt known by many real-life interactions with human beings, or even by myself.” ~ Zadie Smith On this week’s episode of Real Ballers Read, we dive into one of the most thought-provoking essays by the brilliant Zadie Smith, “Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction”. Here’s a fun contribution to the conversation started by @booksarepopculture on Black bookstagram’s preference for fiction or nonfiction. What’s your go-to genre?? The bros got a whole *concept map* of all the connections we made to Zadie Smith’s essay. This was a fun conversation that somehow covered bell hooks, Toni Morrison, Captain Underpants and the new culture wars in the same episode. Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts. . . .

2:57 The Story Behind this episode

7:42 The first paragraph of “Fascinated to Presume”

9:24 Having fluid or “inconsistent” personalities

10:56 Ways we’ve felt more secure

12:26 Relating to fictional characters

13:34 To Kill A Mockingbird

16:05 Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine

19:36 Feeling seen by people vs. books

21:52 What happens to people when the news cameras leave?

23:47 The Dance of Human Interaction and its absence in reading

26:27 Trick Mirror

28:16 The Potential for Radical Change

32:44 American Dirt

38:02 Is it irresponsible to write from someone else’s point of view?

42:10 What does harm mean in a literary sense?

46:41 Trigger warnings at the start of books?

47:31 Sisters of the Yam by bell hooks

52:18 Stanley Crouch

54:16 John Howard Griffin and Black Like Me

55:45 Limits of empathy

57:38 The illusion of the self

59:30 Reading as a writer vs. as a casual reader

1:01 Consumerism as an identity

1:06 The Reader decides to believe or not

1:07 What we want from good fiction

1:14 Difference between acting and writing

1:16 Cultural Appropriation as a verbal container

1:23 Does this essay convince us to read more classics?

1:31 Hector Abad quote

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