Feel Free: Essays
By Zadie Smith
A New York Times Notable Book
From Zadie Smith, one of the most beloved authors of her generation, a new collection of essays
Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world's preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right.
Arranged into five sections--In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free--this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network--and Facebook itself--really about? "It's a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore." Why do we love libraries? "Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay." What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? "So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we'd just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes--and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat."
Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, "Joy," and, "Find Your Beach," Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive--and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith
“It is exquisitely pleasurable to observe Smith thinking on the page, not least because we have no idea where she’s headed…At times she reminds me of a musician jamming, or one of those enviable cooks who can take five random ingredients lying around the kitchen and whip up a meal. Her loose, roving essays cohere because they are rooted in her sensibility, in what Elizabeth Hardwick called ‘the soloist’s personal signature flowing through the text.’” —The New York Times Book Review
“What binds the collection is Smith’s voice: frank, urgent, self-ironic. Dipping into these pieces (in any order) is like setting out on a walk with a vibrant, curious, gracefully articulate friend.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“In the best of these pieces…Smith presses down hard as a cultural critic, and the rewards are outsize.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“These essays and journalistic pieces…confirm Zadie Smith as a non-fiction writer of striking generosity and perception…Here is Smith, coolly appraising, connoisseurial, discerning; and here she is, too, the book nerd, the culture geek, reading, hearing and seeing, occasionally dizzied by her own place among all these works of art, and dying to talk to somebody about it…[A] wonderfully suggestive collection.” —The Guardian
“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
“A delicious hodge podge of ideas that show Smith’s breadth of interest and thoughtfulness. It’s stretching: a yoga class for the mind.” —The Times (UK)