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April 14, 2018


Feel Free Essays by Zadie Smith

by N@ncy



Fences: A Brexit Diary

  1. This essay is about a topical issue: Brexit.
  2. But was written in August 2016 and much has happened since.
  3. The facts: The UK will leave the EU by
  4. automatic operation of international law on 29 March 2019.
  5. The UK government does not know what it wants
  6. …and there is no UK Brexit policy worth the name.
  7. Working-class Brits voted without understanding the stakes
  8. …and fell back on their inherited  fear of England’s invasion by  foreigners.
  9. Despite the fact that many people in London there are
  10. multicultural and cross-class aspects in their lives
  11. …...that is actually represented by their staff —
  12. nannies, cleaners, people who pour their coffee and who drive the cabs.
  13. The painful truth is the fences are being raised all over London.
  14. Conclusion:
  15. Smith lambasts wealthy London.
  16. We walk past ‘them‘  very often in the street and get into their cabs
  17. …and eat their food in their ethnic restaurants
  18. …but the truth is that more often than not they are
  19. …NOT in  our schools, social circles, and very rarely enter our houses
  20. …– unless they’ve come to work on our endlessly remodeled kitchens.”
  21. Excellent essay



In the Audience  (very good!)

  1. Generation Why? – review of the movie “Social Network” (Zuckerberg and Facebook).
  2. Seems surreal to read this review by Zadie Smith while
  3. Facebook is in the midst of turmoil (Facebook vs Cambridge Analytics scandal).
  4. Zadie Smith quit Facebook 2 months after she started.
  5. She admits FB has been the greatest distraction from work she has ever had.
  6. In FB life is turned into a database and this is degradation.
  7. We use the FB software to behave in a certain, superficial way toward others.
  8. We know what we are doing ‘IN’ the software
  9. ….but we don’t know what the software is doing to us? 
  10. Zadie Smith quotes Lanier a software expert:
  11. ” be attentive to the software into which we are ‘locked in’.
  12. Is it really fulfilling our needs?
  13. When a human being becomes a set of data on a
  14. …website like Facebo0k, he or she is reduced
  15. …our networked selves don’t look more free
  16. they look more owned.
  17. It is scary reading this essay published in November 2010
  18. …8 years ago…and feeling it could have been written today!
  19. It does not matter who you are, as long as you make ‘choices’.
  20. Zadie Smith gets nostalgic at the end of the essay
  21. “I’m dreaming of a Web that caters to a kind of
  22. person who no longer exists” …a private person.
  23. NOTE:  I have DELETED  Facebook and TWITTER
  24. …a waste of my reading time!


The House that Hova Built

  1. Starting  The House That Hova Built. (2012, New York Times Magazine).
  2. Reading this in 2018 we already know Jay-Z
  3. will have an extra marital affair (2013 – 2015).
  4. His wife made the 6th best selling album
  5. …by a woman in all timeLemonade” in 2016.
  6. Beyoncé reveals explicitly her  progress through the discovery,
  7. detonation and aftermath of the affair.
  8. Album is divided into chapters:  Intuition, Denial, Anger, Forgiveness, Redemption.
  9. Rapper Jay-Z mentioned in an interview with Zadie Smith:
  10. And when it comes to talent,
  11. ‘You just never know– there is no guage.
  12. You don’t see when it’s empty.’
  13. IRONY: Speaking about his then 4 month old daughter, Ivy Blue,
  14. She doesn’t have to be tough […]
  15. …she has to be respectful and be a moral person“.
  16. Hmm…just like her daddy!


Brother from Another Mother 

  1. I had to look up who Key & Peele are.
  2. I needed to watch some Key & Peele on You Tube!
  3. The first two seasons of Key & Peele on Comedy Central 
  4. ..received positive reviews, maintaining a score 74 of 100.
  5. The third season of Key & Peele received
  6. …critical acclaim, receiving a score of 82 of 100!
  7. The series won a Peabody Award in 2013
  8. “for its stars and their creative team’s inspired
  9. …satirical riffs on our racially divided and racially conjoined culture.
  10. THANK YOU Zadie Smith…I finally discovered Key & Peele!


Some Notes on  Attunement –  very personal, touching

  1. I loved this essay.
  2. There was a quote that made me stop and think about
  3. …my determination to find out ‘What Makes Poetry Tick.
  4. I think Zadie Smith has given the key I was looking for.
  5. Quote:
  6. “Sometimes it is when you stop trying to understand
  7. …the new art  that you become more open to it.
  8. Put simply: You need to lower your defenses.


Flaming June

Zadie Smith starts her essayI’m trying to think of the first bits of art I ever saw.”  Now that is a good question.  My  Dad had some prints in his den of Revolutionary War 1776 soldiers hanging around a cannon. I don’t consider that art. But in my uncle’s house there was one painting (print) by Renoir I remember...I liked her hat.

But Zadie Smith  in this very short essay tells us which poster she choose to hang in her college apartment: Flaming June by Leighton. From now on she was not going to pinch pennies like her father or take up political commitments like her mother. No, Zadie was going to live for art!  “I’m going to spend three years on a sofa thinking about truth and  art…” “I was going to live for love and art and food[…]….and sleep, lots of sleep!”


Crazy They Call Me: On Looking at Jerry Dantzic’s Photos of Billie Holiday

  1. In this essay (New Yorker, 06.03.2017) you inhabit the world of Billie Holiday.
  2. Zadie Smith is writing the story from the singer’s perspective.
  3. “…after the clapping dies down,
  4. …there’s simply no one and nothing to be done.”
  5. “…you’re grateful for your little dog…”
  6. A dog don’t cheat, a dog don’t lie.”
  7. “This little dog and you? Soulmates. Where you been all my life?”
  8. “You never sing anything after….’Strange Fruit
  9. This song, written by Abel Meeropol and performed
  10. by many artists (but most notably, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone,)
  11. …is a dark and profound song about
  12. …the lynching of African Americans in the
  13. …Southern United States during the Jim Crow Era.
  14. In the lyrics, black victims are portrayed as “strange fruit,”
  15. …as they hang from trees, rotting in the sun, blowing in the wind,
  16. …and becoming food for crows upon being burned.
  17. It was a protest song that Billie Holiday
  18. ..very bravely performed under grave threats and at high personal cost.


  1. Essay: A Bird of Few Words  by Zadie Smith (The New Yorker, 19.06.2017)
  2. I thought this essay was going back and forth
  3. ..describing the art of  Lynette Yiadom Boakye (British- Ghanaian artist) and
  4. …then comparing it to the comments of the critics.
  5. But Smith went in another direction.
  6. Boakye creates compelling character studies of people who don’t exist.
  7. The paintings are of people with no name.
  8. Boakye  can finish a portrait in 1 day…
  9. …and Smith sighs from a novelist’s point of view both the
  10. ..speed and clarity of Boakye is humbling.
  11. This painting I found light as if the person was about to take flight!

  12. But this painting just was full of  ‘color politics’ and
  13. …shows Boakye’s talents and Smith’s insightful interpretation.
  14. Mercy over Matter”  a man holds a bird on this finger.
  15. Notice “…the underplumage: those jewel-like greens and
  16. …purples and reds you can spot
  17. beneath the oil-slick surface of certain bird-feathered birds.
  18. …the man’s jacket magically displays this same underplumage;
  19. …so does his skin; so does the bird.
  20. He is often thought of as a nothing, a cipher.
  21. But he has layers upon layers upon layers.





Read more from essays, non-fiction
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 19 2018

    This sounds fascinating reading. And now I know where you’ve disappeared to!
    I’ve reduced fb time to a once a week check in on the w/e. And I still love twitter for book stuff. I thought about deleting fb (B20 deleted his account last year cause his gen only use it to share memes). He now works with data & we realised we were kidding ourselves by thinking it’s only fb doing this stuff. Every bank, real estate agency, supermarket chain, online shopping service, govt agency & probably WordPress & blogger collect & share data & have been doing so for years. We have been defined by our data for years.

    Thanks for these thoughtful reviews I may have to add this one to my TBR pile!!


    • Apr 19 2018

      This a “relax in the garden with a cool drink” kind of book. In your case a mug of hot coffee curled up in front of the fireplace (winter!). You can read 1 or two essays then close the book to get back to chores, cooking or job. I expected more from essays in part “On the Bookshelf” …but was disappointed. It had potential with insights about books/authors. The personal essays are the best + the ones printed in The New Yorker. Yes, closed down FB and Twitter…no regrets. Any RT’s I could provide for my book friends…well, the half go to people who only read Dutch! One morning I noticed I wanted to get started on a book and before I knew it 1 hour later (FB and TW) I still wasn’t reading. I know the book lovers I like to visit…so I’m spending more time bloghopping than twitter scrolling! You can always leave a comment on this blog if you think “Now, this is something Nancy would like!” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Apr 19 2018

        Will do!
        I’ve just finished a Japanese cat story that you would love I think, the Travelling Cat Chronicles.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Apr 19 2018

        I will have a look on your blog, cat stories are always popular in this house!


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