BOOK REVIEW: ZADIE SMITH – INTIMATIONS

Today it’s going to be a quick and short review for a short but brilliant book. This is the new short essay collection from the marvel that is Zadie Smith, Intimations.

These are very weird, emotional, strange times at the moment and there’s going to be a lot of books about it all, isn’t there? And I’m not really interested in those type of books unless they are written by Ali and Zadie Smith. And Zadie has compiled a short but brilliant collection of essays, Intimations. But what’s it about? Here’s the synopsis:

Written during the early months of lockdown, Intimations explores ideas, feelings and questions prompted by an unprecedented situation. What does it mean to submit to a new reality – or to resist it? How do we compare relative sufferings? What is the relationship between time and work? In our isolation, what do other people mean to us? How do we think about them? What is the ratio of contempt to compassion in a crisis? When an unfamiliar world arrives, what does it reveal about the world that came before it?

Suffused with a profound intimacy and tenderness in response to these extraordinary times, Intimations is a slim, suggestive volume with a wide scope, in which Zadie Smith clears a generous space for thought, open enough for each reader to reflect on what has happened – and what might come next.

I love Zadie Smith and her writing. I love her fiction, her short stories but there’s just something about her essays that I just love. And who better than to write about these times than Zadie Smith? I was so excited when I saw this book was being published, I don’t think I hit the pre-order button quick enough!

I love Zadie Smith’s writing for her insightful, profound, witty observations on life, society, social media, philosophy, literature, celeb culture, etc. And that is here, in abundance, in this collection. She writes about the pandemic, of course. She writes about isolation, the differences from New York to England, the government’s response, community, family, Trump, and more.

She writes about writing in I think my favourite essay, Something To Do, where she explores why she writes but in the same vein as doing something in the middle of lockdown. She writes:

“… now I am gratified to find this most honest of phrases in everybody’s mouths all of a sudden, and in answer to almost every question. Why did you bake that banana bread? It was something to do. Why did you make a fort in your living room? Well, it’s something to do. Why dress the dog as a cat? It’s something to do, isn’t it? Fills the time.”

I just love that quote and I think it just speaks a lot about being in lockdown, and I didn’t even bake any banana bread! She also writes about the Black Lives Matter movement nearer the end of the collection. She writes about the death of George Floyd in a powerful essay that will make you reflect and think.

This is a stunning collection of essays that gives a sharp and sublime insight into these extraordinary times. Filled with the same brilliance, the same sharpness and wit that we have become to know and love in her work, is here, bursting at the seams. There will be many books about this extraordinary year, but as Zadie writes:

“There will be many books written about the year 2020: historical, analytical, political as well as comprehensive accounts. This is not any of those – the year isn’t half-way done. What I’ve tried to do is organise some of the feelings and thoughts that events, so far, have provoked in me, in those scraps of time this year itself has allowed. These are above all personal essays: small by definition, short by necessity.”

It’s a total joy, as ever, to read new work from Zadie Smith and this does not disappoint. I just know I will go back and look at these essays in years to come and think about this crazy, emotional, extraordinary time. All of her royalties of the book are going to charity to help fight COVID. She also reads the audiobook herself if you’re looking for a good audiobook!

I also listened to Zadie on The Adam Buxton Podcast and it’s brilliant, as ever. She talks about this collection of essays, why she wrote them, and how lockdown was for her as well as looking towards the future. She was also on Woman’s Hour talking about the book which is another great listen.

I hope there’s a new novel on the way – I just need more Zadie Smith after reading this brilliant collection!

Have you read Intimations? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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