Namara Smith

Namara Smith is an editor at Bookforum.

Is Joyce Carol Oates​ a hack? For the best part of her six-decade career, there’s been a lingering suspicion that nobody who publishes as often as she does can have much worth saying. An aura of cheapness, or promiscuity, hangs over her work. Literary value is often synonymous with scarcity, and Oates has never made herself scarce. She made her name in the 1960s and 1970s with four...

Me? Soft?

Namara Smith, 4 February 2021

The​ narrator of Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi’s second novel, is blunt about the logic behind her life choices: ‘I wanted to do the hardest thing. I wanted to flay any mental weakness off my body like fascia from muscle.’ This impulse led her first to Harvard, where she studied molecular biology, and then to graduate school at Stanford. When the novel begins, she is 28...

The Last Quesadilla: Leanne Shapton

Namara Smith, 6 February 2020

Mymother used to tell a story she heard in the Peace Corps in the 1970s. An American couple somewhere in the South Pacific decided to swim across a narrow but deep channel where tiger sharks had been spotted. The man, about twenty yards ahead, was almost at the other side when he heard a cry and looked back to see his wife disappearing under the water. All they ever found of her were her...

Dots and Dashes: Nick Drnaso

Namara Smith, 4 April 2019

The most arresting scene​ in Beverly, the first book by the American cartoonist Nick Drnaso, arrives midway through a story – one of six – called ‘The Lil’ King’. A boy sits outside a locked motel room as rhythmic groans emanate from the other side of the door: his parents have stolen a moment alone, thinking the kids are at the pool. It is the last family road...

In​ The Portrait of a Lady, Mrs Touchett describes finding Isabel Archer ‘sitting in a dreary room on a rainy day, reading a heavy book and boring herself to death’. She adds, defending herself, ‘You may say I shouldn’t have enlightened her – I should have let her alone. There’s a good deal in that, but I acted conscientiously; I thought she was...

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