Sunday, January 31, 2010

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith

My review of Zadie Smith's new collection of essays in the Toronto Star.

A capful:

Early fame can set very young actors on the road to notoriety and a mug shot-accompanied crack-up. The effect it has on youngish authors is much less dramatic, though similarly destructive. Sudden literary fame turns the essentially internal, intuitive and private act of writing inside out, exposing it to dangerous new strains of self-awareness.

For Zadie Smith, this fame has made for a full decade of second-guessing herself. When critic James Wood used a review of Smith's first, 2000 novel, White Teeth, to rail against what he called "hysterical realism," Smith, who was only 25 when that book was published, replied that the term was "painfully accurate ... for the sort of overblown, manic prose to be found in novels like my own." Even with two more novels under her belt, she still seems to be finding her way back either to the certainty of intent that made White Teeth such an anomaly, or, more likely, to some completely other authorial state of mind in which uncertainty and second-guessing are strengths, not weaknesses...

Read the whole thing here.

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