Feel Free: Essays Hardcover – 8 Feb 2018
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A writer so insistent on the possibility of imaginative connection, so generous and curious with regard to her readers (Evening Standard)
Refreshingly insightful on any number of topics, from Martin Buber to Justin Bieber...Reviewing a book by her countryman Geoff Dyer, [Smith] writes that she is most struck by 'his tone. Its simplicity, its classlessness, its accessibility and yet its erudition-the combination is a trick few British writers ever pull off.' Without question, Smith is one of them (TIME Magazine)
Brims with a wide-ranging enthusiasm...[Smith's] open-mindedness gives the whole of Feel Free a lively, game-for-anything spirit...Enchanting (USA Today)
Fascinating stuff! (Love It!)
Charmingly digressive...Smith sets an unpretentious tone...As the pages pass, there's a palpable absence of self-certainty. In its place are ample reserves of curiosity and empathy (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
The joy of this collection is Smith's straightforward phrasing, often summing up her thesis with a single thoughtful sentence. Her words are not overwritten; they do not distract from her purpose, nor are they a barrier to her argument; they are welcoming. I found myself re-reading the brightest of these sentences over and again, marveling at her humor and her brevity (Associated Press)
The strongest essays showcase Smith's skills as an art, literary and cultural critic...One of the pleasures of reading Feel Free is in savoring Smith's joy when she writes about formative cultural experiences. As with any book of opinions, Feel Free makes claims one might dispute...But a collection of essays that doesn't prompt disagreements would be a dull book, and Feel Free is anything but dull (Houston Chronicle)
Getting In and Out' is the kind of essay that sheds light on a whole career, and it would justify this collection even if Feel Free didn't include a handful of more perfectly crafted pieces of prose (Chicago Tribune)
For years, [Smith] has been one of the most important literary journalists we have. This is why (Buffalo News)
Smith writes [ . . . ] with such infectious zeal and engaging accessibility that it makes you want to turn up at her house and demand tutoring (Dazed and Confused)
About the Author
Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW and Swing Time, as well as a novella, The Embassy of Cambodia, and a collection of essays, Changing My Mind, and editor of The Book of Other People. Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. On Beauty was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and NW was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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This book is wide ranging in the topics discussed. Zadie Smith discusses topics from Brexit, social change, facebook, political debate to Justin Bieber. The way Zadie Smith presents her ideas and thoughts are wise and worded well. One Zadie Smith sentence I really liked is:
"I am a citizen as well as an individual soul and one of the things citizenship teaches us, over he long stretch, is no perfectibility in human affairs. Progress is never permanent, it will always be threatened, must be redoubled, restated and re-imagined if it is to survive."
I like the way Zadie Smith is opinionated but not judgmental. She engages people on their terms and not her own. She really is an inspirational person who is a joy to read.
Overall this recent book by Zadie Smith is interesting, thought provoking, funny and charming and worth a read.
One thing to note is the audiobook is read out by a different reader who does not sound as charming as Zadie Smith.
If this review was helpful please click the helpful button below this will help me improve and make future reviews more helpful.
WHO WOULD ENJOY READING IT?
People who love reading heavy, analytical essays. Those with a liking for free-flowing, simple prose should stay clear.
WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT "FEEL FREE"
The author's insights are unique and interesting enough to make me want to read more. One of the essays, titled “Generation Why”, is particularly insightful.
Generation Why discusses the link between the quirks of the founders of social media - Facebook in particular - and the effects on its users.
For example, did you know that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is red-green colourblind? This means blue is the colour he can see the most and the best. This is why Facebook is mostly blue.
Going beyond colour schemes, the author further argues few points that show how Zuckerberg's deep-set ideas are woven into Facebook and how those philosophies are changing the way Facebook users think and relate to one another.
WHAT I DO NOT LIKE
Few of the essays seem inaccessible. There are some ramblings and lack of coherent train of thought on the pages make some paragraphs difficult to enjoy.
"It feels important to remind ourselves, at this point, that Facebook, our new beloved interface with reality, was designed by a Harvard sophomore with a Harvard sophomore’s preoccupations. What is your relationship status? (Choose one. There can be only one answer. People need to know.) Do you have a ‘life’? (Prove it. Post pictures.) Do you like the right sort of things? (Make a list. Things to like will include: films, music, books and television, but not architecture, ideas or plants).
“But here I fear I am becoming nostalgic. I am dreaming of a Web that caters to a kind of person who no longer exists. A private person. A person who is a mystery, to the world and - which is more important - to herself."
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith hits stores in February 2018. Available in all major online bookstores.
Many thanks to Penguin Press for review copy.
Less enticing are the 'musing' essays where Smith responds to artworks, books, or plays with ideas such as how different dancers epitomize styles of authorship. These pieces often have an interesting idea at their heart but they feel unstructured, sometimes unfinished, more like entries in a writer's diary than a polished essay. They also feel too long: shortened and sharper would have held my interest more and made the piece more impactful.
So not for me a book to be read cover to cover, but good for something stimulating and thoughtful to dip into while commuting.