Intimations by Zadie Smith Review


Zadie Smith is an essayist of the first order. She gave me a fresh perspective on one of my favorite movies, The Social Network, in her essay \”Generation Why,\” an original way to think about cultural appropriation with \”Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction,\” and an important world event that largely flew over my head with \”Fences: A Brexit Story.\”She\’s a major piece of my nascent theory that novelists write the most spellbinding non-fiction, together with Baldwin, Didion, Wolfe, and Morrison—writers courageous enough to confront their particular cultural moments with their detailed, vulnerable thoughts—fighting against an unrelenting sea of careless language.Smith begins by stating that she read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius for the first time during this lockdown, in hopes to learn something \”practical\”.Smith makes her wisdom feel simultaneously hard-earned and stumbled-upon. She\’s smart enough to reference Kierkegaard and Toni Cade Bambara whenever she wants and humble enough to admit that she still doesn\’t have it all figured out.But, as a reader of this book, you get to experience all of the genius formulation she has already done, as she says, to swim through the ocean of hypocrisy, with her.She profoundly muses about peonies, the commodification of time, the denial of death, privilege, suffering, and the virus of racism. She muses on both sides of the Atlantic.Somehow, she\’s able to capture all of the complexity necessary for these topics in a short amount of time, which makes them all the more enjoyable.Hearing Smith herself read these essays in the audiobook is another treat.  She impersonates Americans with hilarious precision, to the point that I thought she was using voice actors.This is easily the best book I\’ve read this year and my new favorite book. Every day during this lockdown I have vacillated between varying degrees of uncertainty and this book speaks to many of my doubts in a way that nothing else could right now.In a truly Emersonian sense, Zadie Smith gifts us with her original relation to the universe—giving us the opportunity to discover our own through hers.

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