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Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Second Novel Anxiety Syndrome

22 August 2002
... on them too soon – as well as against writing too much too quickly and complacently. Two high-profile second novels due in the autumn are Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend and The Autograph Man by ZadieSmith. Tartt’s first book, The Secret History, came out in 1992. The tale of a bacchanal at an elite New England college that goes murderously wrong, or rather murderously right, and has yet more ...

Sheer Enthusiasm

Thomas Chatterton Williams: Zadie Smith

30 August 2018
Feel Free: Essays 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £20, February 2018, 978 0 241 14689 7
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... should anyone have to pick a genre and stick to it? As Sontag observed, ‘a writer is someone who pays attention to the world.’ The rest is mere form. This thought seems fundamental to Feel Free, ZadieSmith’s latest collection of essays, profiles and reviews. Still, Smith has Sontag’s insecurity in reverse, admitting in the foreword to her own anxiety: ‘I have no real qualifications to write ...


Joanna Biggs: Zadie Smith

1 December 2016
Swing Time 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 453 pp., £18.99, November 2016, 978 0 241 14415 2
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... The ends​ of great fiction do not change, much,’ ZadieSmith wrote eight years ago in an essay about David Foster Wallace. ‘But the means do.’ She was between novels: three years had passed since her most traditional, On Beauty, was published; NW, her most ...

Willesden Fast-Forward

Daniel Soar: Zadie Smith

21 September 2000
White Teeth 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 9780241139974
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... lies just beyond Kilburn, and in the all-important hierarchy of London postcodes it has the respectable-sounding label of NW2; there are houses that go for £800,000. It’s where White Teeth is set. ZadieSmith won a kind of lottery: £250,000 in a two-book deal, and there’s a £5 million BBC adaptation on the way. She was one of the deserving – just a step away from the prize-winning bus-driver ...

Here she is

Frank Kermode: Zadie Smith

6 October 2005
On Beauty 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 446 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 241 14293 8
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... are unlikely to be discovered by close imitation. Attempts to do so may have an undesired outcome: the shadow of the older novel might darken or distort the new one. In the present case it doesn’t. ZadieSmith’s real debt may not lie in her echoes of Howards End, though she does insist on them. Two families of very different temperaments are forced to confront one another when in On Beauty, as in ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: New Writing

8 March 2001
... in the Year’ (LRB, 1 April 1999), which bears a remarkable resemblance to its namesake in New Writing 10 – the same words appear in the same order in both poems – was some kind of April Fool. ZadieSmith, who may or may not still count as a new writer (maybe she enjoys the increasingly common distinction of being both new and established simultaneously), hasn’t contributed to New Writing 10 ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Alternative Weeping

7 September 2000
... shirts with the dates on the back – perhaps he does. What a literary festival has over a run-of-the-mill bookshop reading is, of course, the chance to see and hear David Starkey cheek by jowl with ZadieSmith, Roy Strong, Terry Jones, Michael Holroyd and all the other writers showcasing their various talents this year. Such events certainly seem to be increasing rapidly in number and variety ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Nephews and Daughters

23 January 2003
... in the aftermath of the Granta announcement has been lavished on Adam Thirlwell (24), whose first novel is yet to be published, but who, more importantly, is the only one on the list apart from ZadieSmith (27) under 30. None of them is younger than 20, which shouldn’t be very surprising. The only teenage candidate I can think of is Anna Stothard (19): Isabel and Rocco, which she wrote when she ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Unimpressed by good booking men

24 June 2004
... at. ‘Precedent’ is, anyway, a pretty unreliable indicator: while publishers play a game of catch-up, throwing bad money after good in the hope of finding the ‘new Harry Potter’ or the ‘new ZadieSmith’, the surprise next big thing – Fever Pitch, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Angela’s Ashes, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Longitude, Eats, Shoots and Leaves (none of them a great work of ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith

3 October 2002
The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... mail fraudster and insurance scam artist, one-time inmate of Lorton penitentiary, now a computer whizz kid with EkaSystems Inc, and earning at least half a million a year . . . Alas, much of ZadieSmith’s second novel reads like this. (It’s better written, but she had two years, and I had two minutes.) White Teeth, for all its many miracles, occasionally revealed a cartoonish energy that ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Literary Prizes

10 May 2001
... prestigious’ – was this year incorporated into the new WHSmith Book Awards, most of which were decided by a public vote, as an allegedly democratic gesture against the elitism of literary prizes. ZadieSmith won in the New Talent category; Jamie Oliver was best for Home and Leisure and Simon Schama for General Knowledge; J.K. Rowling wrote the best children’s book and Maeve Binchy’s Scarlet ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: 10,860 novels

23 August 2001
... the subject of Scottish fiction; James Kelman’s name, for example, doesn’t come up. And what about women? Jeanette Winterson, not exactly unfamous, isn’t featured; nor is Hilary Mantel; though ZadieSmith inevitably is. Most published works of fiction are not particularly good, as has surely always been the case (and the situation must seem worse now, whenever now is, because the mediocrities of ...

At White Cube

Nick Richardson: Christian Marclay

19 March 2015
... of movie clips of clocks – or of people looking at clocks, or talking about the time – into a film that can be shown over 24 hours with the times onscreen corresponding to the actual time. ZadieSmith called The Clock ‘neither bad nor good but sublime’, and it is, both for the staggering amount of work that went into gathering and trimming the footage, and for the way it subsumes the ...

Why am I so fucked up?

Christian Lorentzen: 37 Shades of Zadie

8 November 2012
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 295 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 0 241 14414 5
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... ZadieSmith’s career has been a 15-year psychodrama. An advance of hundreds of thousands of pounds on a few dozen manuscript pages when she was still at Cambridge made her a celebrity before she was 25. I read ...

Seeing Things Flat

Jenny Turner: Tom McCarthy’s ‘C’

9 September 2010

by Tom McCarthy.
Cape, 310 pp., £16.99, August 2010, 978 0 224 09020 9
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... art press based in Paris, picked it up four years later; the LRB became an early and enthusiastic adopter.* The book gathered a buzz, went to America, won a prize from the Believer, then in 2008 ZadieSmith wrote about it in the New York Review of Books, in tandem with Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland. Smith immediately got the point of the McCarthy project, its vehemence, its attack on the plushy ...

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