changing my mind-occasional essays by zadie smith

“Some writers won’t read a word of any novel while they’re writing their own. Not one word. They don’t even want to see the cover of a novel. As they write, the world of fiction dies: no one has ever written, no one is writing, no one will ever write again. Try to recommend a good novel to a writer of this type while he’s writing and he’ll give you a look like you just stabbed him in the heart with a kitchen knife. It’s a matter of temperament. Some writers are the kind of solo violinists who need complete silence to tune their instruments. Other want to hear from every member of the orchestra-they’ll take a cue from a clarinet, from an oboe, even. I am one of those. My writing desk is covered in open novels. I read lines to swim in a certain sensibility, to strike a particular note, to encourage rigor when I’m too sentimental, to bring verbal ease when I’m syntactically uptight. I think of reading as a balanced diet; if your sentences are baggy, too baroque, cut back on fatty Foster Wallace, say, and pick up Kafka as roughage. If your aesthetic has become so refined it is stopping you from placing a single black mark on white paper, stop worrying so much about what Nabokov would say; pick up Dostoyevsky, patron saint of substance over style.” (103)

some emcees are like this too (boo).

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One thought on “changing my mind-occasional essays by zadie smith

  1. “To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern, that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel, that discernment is but a hand playing with finely ordered variety on the chords of emotion-a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously into feeling, and feeling flashes back a new organ of knowledge. One may have that condition by fits only.” (40) Will Ladislaw (George Eliot)

    “Still, I’m glad I’m not the reader I was in college anymore, and I’ll tell you why: it made me feel lonely. Back then I wanted to tear down the icon of the author and abolish, too, the idea of a privileged reader-the text was to be a free, wild thing, open to everyone, belonging to no one, refusing an ultimate meaning. Which was a powerful feeling, but also rather isolating, because it jettisons the very idea of communication, of any possible genuine link between the person who writes and the person who reads. Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own. To this end I find myself placing a cautious faith in the difficult partnership between reader and writer, that discrete struggle to reveal an individual’s experience of the world through the unstable medium of language. Not a refusal of meaning, then, but a quest for it.” (57)

    “Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson. My brain is giving you one star, but my heart wants to give five. I want you to know that Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is to ghetto movies what Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was to Mafia movies, and I love, love, love it. I love that there are more naked men in this movie than in Brokeback. I love that you keep getting your fellow gangsters to admit that they love you. Really loudly. In the middle of robberies.” (185)

    and yes, there are way more gems: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&bID=530666003

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