We think that you are in United States and that you would prefer to view Bookwitty in English.
We will display prices in United States Dollar (USD).
Have a cookie!
Bookwitty uses cookies to personalize content and make the site easier to use. We also share some information with third parties to gather statistics about visits.

Are you Witty?

Sign in or register to share your ideas

Sign In Register

A review of Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

Katie McCandless By Katie McCandless Published on April 4, 2016

Found this article relevant?

Lucia Gannon and Katie McCandless found this witty

As a big fan of Zadie Smith's fiction, I was pretty disappointed by this collection. There are a few personal essays sprinkled in - and those are good - but otherwise it's a lot of referential inside baseball. Her writing is immaculate but even in the essays about her own life, she remains aloof and inaccessibly academic. She doesn't quite reach arch smugness, but there is an inherent elitism (and disregard for her own fiction) that makes her seem out of touch and also felt like a betrayal. She writes 30 pages about Barthes, Nabokov and Kafka, and then later deigns to include a brief review of the film "Date Movie," where she reveals, without irony or humor, that it's the worst movie she's ever seen. Thanks for that, Zadie.

In the literary essays, she assumes everyone has read what she's read. In an essay about her father's death and their shared comedy snobbery, she assumes that the existence of technical craftsmanship in comedy will come as a revelation. In the essay about David Foster Wallace she lets the reader know that, in the slim chance you've read DFW, you probably didn't understand or appreciate him. And if you did, it probably wasn't for the correct reasons.

These essays are tightly crafted and brilliant, but if you're looking for more Zadie because you loved On Beauty or, god forbid, White Teeth (which you're wrong to have liked) I think you'll be disappointed. Sadly, the beautiful and heartbreakingly restrained essays about her personal life are too few to redeem it and come off like a spoonful of sugar to help the literary criticism go down.

American expat living in Amsterdam; working on a new career as a freelance writer and editor. mcscandalous.com

Found this article relevant?

Lucia Gannon and Katie McCandless found this witty


Please log in or sign up to join the discussion

Letlhogonolo  Tlhabano
While the reviewer does focus a bit on the excellent writing, I'm not sure why she goes on at such length, about how the author doesn't write as much about herself. It's not a mermoir, and as such, the author doesn't have to write a lot of deeply personal stuff. 

0 Related Posts

Know what people should read next?