Tag Archives: Zadie Smith

Books Acquired Recently: Desk Copy Edition

I recently received some desk copies of books I will be teaching next semester. Baldwin’s and McClatchy’s are for a Queer Literature course and Atwood’s and Smith’s are for a Literature and Religion course. I’ve taught the latter two a number of times, but it will be my first time teaching the first two, although I have taught some of Baldwin’s other novels before.

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 1986. New York: Anchor Books, 2017.

Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. 1956. New York: Vintage Books, 2013.

McClatchy, J.D., ed. Love Speaks Its Name: Gay and Lesbian Love Poems. New York: Everyman’s Library, 2001.

Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. 2000. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature, Uncategorized

Books Acquired Recently

Abramović, Marina. Walk Through Walls: A Memoir. New York: Crown Archetype, 2016.

Abramović is my favorite artist, and I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it via her Facebook page. I love how she inserts her body into her work, insisting that art is always in some way autobiographical. I am excited to see how she handles the genre of written autobiography. Judging from the dust jacket blurb, the book is more properly spoken of as autobiography rather than as memoir, as its subtitle claims, but memoir is so marketable these days that it is understandable (though not necessarily justifiable) why the publisher would choose to mislabel it.

This and Smith’s book were purchased from amazon.com.

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed: “The Tempest” Retold. London: Hogarth, 2016.

I recently received this book, which is signed by the author, as a gift. Hogarth has a series of retellings of Shakespeare’s plays by contemporary authors. This is a genre Atwood has worked in before, and I enjoy the writing of hers that I’ve read, so I am optimistic that the book will be an enjoyable one.

Johnson, E. Patrick, ed. No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016.

Johnson’s anthology Black Queer Studies is an essential book in both the queer and African American literary critical canons, and a book that has had a significant impact on me as a scholar. Therefore, when I first heard about No Tea, No Shade, a follow-up collection, I ordered an examination copy from the publisher immediately.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.

I have loved Smith’s fiction since I first read White Teeth in a graduate school course eleven years ago. She is one of a select group of authors whose books I buy immediately without question (Nicholson Baker, Di Brandt, Samuel R. Delany, Don DeLillo [though he might be off the list now because his last book was so poor], Jonathan Safran Foer, Jeff Gundy, Julia Spicher Kasdorf, and Miriam Toews), and thus I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Back in the Saddle

I haven’t posted in several weeks because I am currently on the job market and have had several interviews that have taken up all of my non-teaching time. However, my life should be a little less crazy in the near future, so I’ll be able to get back to my normal routine of posting a few times per week.

Here are a few brief thoughts on subjects that have been kicking around in my head recently:

1. I just finished teaching Zadie Smith’s White Teeth in my Literary Criticism and Research course, and it struck me during my re-reading of the book just how much it is a response to the Rushdie Affair. Millat and his fundamentalist Muslim friends go to an anti-Rushdie protest midway through the novel, and then the Affair is never explicitly mentioned again (in fact, even during this episode Rushie is not mentioned by name). But the final third of the book is devoted to the conflict between science and religion, with Millat’s group KEVIN and Hortense’s cabal of Jehovah’s Witnesses on one side and Marcus and Magid on the other. Of course these two narratives do not have to be nearly as much in opposition as public discourse in the United States claims they are, but the Rushdie Affair and its portrayal in White Teeth illuminates how when one side (the religious fundamentalists) forces the dialogue to be black or white, one must choose sides, and that the correct choice is to be on the side of freedom of speech and rationality.

2. I bought two new suits in preparation for my interviews and have been thinking about how they relate to the presentation of myself as a person, and as a part of this preoccupation I have been noticing other people’s clothing much more than usual. Last night I was at a party and was so intrigued by someone’s shirt that I asked to feel it even though I had never met the person before! I like the concept of putting a lot of care and consideration into building one’s wardrobe, but usually I am too lazy to actually do this.

3. Danny Welbeck really needs a goal, having only scored once in the league this season. He’s been getting a lot of playing time recently and is often in the starting lineup (today he came on as a late substitute against Fulham, and this kind of usage will probably become the norm now that Wayne Rooney is fully fit again), but has been unable to take advantage of these opportunities. His overall play has been decent, but as a striker his lack of scoring is glaring. The team hasn’t been suffering from Welbeck’s drought because of the presence of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie (and perhaps van Persie’s presence has thrown Welbeck off his game a bit, though that is no excuse). It is clear, however, that when he gets the ball in scoring positions he is thinking too much–his lack of goals is in his head. He’s one of my favorite players, and should have a long and successful career at United, but really needs a goal so that he can stop thinking about it and continue with his development.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature, Miscellaneous, Sports

Zadie Smith on Music and Obsession

Zadie Smith has an article in the 17 December 2012 issue of the New Yorker about her journey to appreciating Joni Mitchell’s work in which she also offers some thoughts on being a connoisseur of various art forms. Smith writes that she distrusts those who claim to be true connoisseurs of more than one form, noting that the novel is her obsession and that she can’t imagine having an equal affinity for another genre even though she enjoys music. She offers her ignorance of Mitchell’s oeuvre as an example of how devotion to one form results in what may seem to be embarrassing blind spots in one’s knowledge of another.

This article resonated with me because I have had a similar relationship with literature and music. Books are my obsession, but another smaller obsession is my fascination with people who have obsessions about something, especially music. I have always been a little jealous of them. Smith describes coming across a Talking Heads album in a record store and being “gripped by melancholy, similar perhaps to the feeling a certain kind of man gets while sitting with his wife on a train platform as a beautiful girl–different in all aspects from his wife–walks by. There goes my other life” (33, Smith’s italics). This passage expresses my feelings about music perfectly. One of my favorite fictional/movie characters is Rob from High Fidelity because of how obsessed he is with both music itself and its physical manifestation in records (though unlike Rob, who owns a record store, I could never run a bookstore because getting rid of the books would be too painful even though they would only nominally be “mine”).  I enjoy music, but I rarely listen to it because I have little time to do so. I am unable to listen to it while multitasking except for when I wash dishes or, sometimes, cook, and the vast majority of my free time is spent reading.

My version of Smith’s ignorance of Mitchell (whom I, too, have little experience with, though I like the work of hers that I’ve heard, and have had “River” [the title of which, I admit, I had to look up online] in my head for the past few days) is my lack of interest in Prince. I know everyone thinks he is great, and I have tried to listen to his music, but it just doesn’t click for me. I suppose this would be an argument against the idea that there is a universal standard of aesthetic quality.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature

Books Acquired Recently

Smith, P.D. City: A Guidebook for the Urban Age. London: Bloomsbury, 2012.

I love cities! I am interested in how they are planned, how they function, and how they shape their inhabitants. I have recently begun to integrate this amateur interest into my literary scholarship, focusing on works/writers that are somehow urban. So when I heard about Smith’s book I decided it would provide me with some helpful background knowledge for this new interest.

Bought on amazon.com.

Smith, Zadie. NW. New York: Penguin, 2012.

I love Smith’s fiction, especially White Teeth and The Autograph Man, thus her new novel was a must-buy. My local bookstore, The King’s English, happened to be having a 35%-off sale yesterday, so it was a perfect time to pick NW up even though I won’t have time to read it for at least a month.

Leave a comment

Filed under Literature