19th Apr 2010
Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
Though Zadie Smith is a marvellous writer, she’s probably best known for being something of a literary prodigy. Her debut novel White Teeth was published to rapturous reviews when Smith was just 25, and the two novels that followed haven’t fared too badly either. In fact, It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she’s one of the most successful British writers of the past decade. Which is why her latest work will be snapped up despite it being quite different from her usual offering.
Changing My Mind is a collection of essays, but don’t stop reading! They’re not that type of essay, promise. Split into five sections – Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, Remembering – they cover delightfully random topics like a trip to Hollywood during Oscars season, the arduous process of writing a novel and why Date Movie is the worst film ever made. There’s also some hardcore literary analysis of Kafka and Nabakov if you’re up to it. (Although I wasn’t…)
This being Zadie Smith, the writing is an absolute joy to read. Every sentence is considered without sounding laboured. There’s genuine emotion but not soppiness. And her signature dry humour peppers every page. But entertaining as Changing My Mind is, it’s more than just a collection of musings and half-formed thoughts. An account of her week spent in post-war Liberia is proper journalism, and Smith’s writing manages to lend an element of humanity to a collection of statistics.
But what I love most about Changing My Mind is that there are no boundaries for Smith – no characters to develop or plot to stick to. Just a space for her to think and write. It shows that she is just as comfortable critiquing Middlemarch as she is 50 Cent’s film debut, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
If you’re a Smith fan and have kept a lookout for her articles, lectures and essays over the years, then you’ll recognise them in Changing My Mind. There’s little in the way of previously unpublished material here. But if you like funny, clever and insightful non-fiction then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t devour this book in one sitting.
Changing My Mind is published by Hamish Hamilton and is £11.99 from Amazon.
Post by Alex Sheppard