Thursday, February 12, 2009

Zadie Smith's novels haven't impressed me much. A writer with a refreshing command of dialect, and an impressive familiarity with the canon of English literature as it impinges on the imagination of a woman whose mixed race ancestry would have shoved her to the peripheries seventy years ago, Smith hasn't yet marshaled her talents in a way that signifies beyond the scope of a talent uneasily assimilating material. "Speaking in Tongues," her excellent essay in the current New York Review of Books posits a kind of multiculturalism that sees its apogee in a certain politican who synthesizes Pygmalion, Cary Grant, and black patois. As usual with me, I don't want to believe it's true.

2 comments:

Hans said...

I can see why "White Teeth" wouldn't get to you, but it has that real punch of discovery (subsequent work not so much) Did you read her NYRB review of Louis Begley's book on Kafka? She's no flash in the pan. But she's a novel or two away from fruition.

Theon said...

she had an essay in the NYer a few weeks ago about comedy and her father, at least i think it was her. i liked it.