Changing My Mind
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Changing My Mind

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  2,574 ratings  ·  394 reviews


Split into five sections-Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, and Remembering- Changing My Mind finds Zadie Smith casting an acute eye over material both personal and cultural. This engaging collection of essays-some published here for the first time- reveals Smith as a passionate and precise essayist, equally at home in the world of great books and bad movies, family and phil...more
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Published November 17th 2009 by HAMISH HAMILTON CA (first published November 12th 2009)
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Greg
I'm going pop off this quick little salvo and then move on to other things. Zadie Smith never calls the novel dead in this book. She also never tries to bury the lyrically realistic novel, one gets the feeling that she enjoys the more experimental side of literature but she seems more to want both sides to be able to live, breathe and grow together. She never calls the novelistic form she works in antiquated. I don't think there was a poor reading done of her, I think there was a willful misread...more
Buck
Since Mr. David Giltinan has already said everything I wanted to say about this book, plus a lot of other stuff I didn’t want to say but can certainly live with, please turn to his review now:
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

For my money—and that’s Canadian money, so beware: it’ll fuck up your gumball machine—Changing My Mind is notable for three pieces: "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men", a tribute to David Foster Wallace that’s so astute and generous that it’d almost be worth dying if...more
Melanie

So there it is: Zadie Smith ties the brooding Karl Ove Knausgaard for Biggest Literary Obsession of 2013.
Why I have waited this long before getting to her work is a little baffling to me but she has been a force in my intellectual and imaginary landscape for some weeks now, never relenting, never weakening, only gaining in speed and strength, like a hurricane.
And obsessed I shall remain, especially after reading these essays which are as varied and wide-ranging as can be, crackling with wit an...more
David
Of the fifteen essays in this collection, there is only one out-and-out dud (Zadie reports on the Oscar weekend). The rest range from good to amazing. Even the superficially unpromising pieces have something to offer. The final essay, an appreciation of David Foster Wallace, is altogether terrific. Her remarks about DFW's deliberate choice to make his writing difficult for the reader are smarter than almost anything else I've read on the subject. She obviously loves his work, but not to the poin...more
Jesse
As nearly every single review of Changing My Mind goes out of its way to emphasize, Zadie Smith is a smart person. A smart, smart, smart person. And in this collection of essays—which span from literature to cinema to autobiography and many places between—intelligence is on full display. But what makes Smith stand out from the vast majority of intelligent people who write today is that she has a knack for taking intricate theoretical issues and making them comprehensible for, well, if not exactl...more
Jeniffer Almonte
Half-way through reading this collection of essays I mused to a friend that I wanted to skin Zadie Smith to that I could make a Zadie Smith suit and then wear it. This friend backed away from me very slowly. It was a reminder that I am just not someone who can pull off edgy humor.

I am an aspiring writer who is black and female and emigrated to the United States with my family from the Dominican Republic when I was very young. Zadie Smith is a black, female writer whose mother is from a different...more
Scott
I gave Zadie Smith's book of essays three stars, instead of four, because it's clear she's still in the process of formation. There are two paths laid out before her, and two personae she adopts in these essays: the Public Intellectual/Star Academic/Writer, and the Reader/Writer.

The two roles are easily discernible as distinct entities in her writing, even as it's clear that they may not be so separate in her own mind. In her first role as Public Intellectual, she has pen, will travel, then writ...more
Jonfaith
One of Ms. Smith's projects in this rather sprawling collection is an assembly of the disparate. That sounds Foucauldian and I think I am wide of the mark with my designation, but only just. Such strange pieces are collected between these soft covers and I remain on the margins of my wits to discern the "what for." It speaks of my amateur treatment of essays that I regard the value of such in its ability to persuade me to the author's perspective. By my metric the early essays were failures. I d...more
Jen Padgett Bohle
I've been daydreaming about Zadie Smith being both my professor and my best friend. We'd go for a sandwich in Camden discussing Jean Rhys or George Eliot and then recount the details of the latest Jud Apatow film and the handsome stranger over by the drinks...

What can’t this woman do? And with such charm and perspicacity! She was analyzing postcolonial literature and Zora Neale Hurston when I was still stuck on Sweet Valley High as a 12 year old. She really knows her literary shit. But I really...more
Zanna
Smith treats a plethora of subjects in this collection; praising Forster and George Eliot, arguing for the demystification of Kafka, illuminating the Black cultural idea of soulfulness, detailing and analysing her visits to Liberia and to LA for the Oscars; recalling episodes from her father's life, and passionately advocating an appreciation of David Foster Wallace.

I feel affection and empathy for Smith throughout this book, admiring her eloquence and sharing her literary and political sensibil...more
MJ Nicholls

I love Zadie Smith. Her essays are so fluid and learned and passionate, so intimate and insightful and intelligent, how could I not love her? Among the pieces collected here include the moving "Dead Man Laughing" about her father (Smith comes from an atypical family background), a horrifying report on Liberian aid workers, and the dissertation "The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace."

Essential fodder for the passionate modern reader.
Mary McCoy
Some of the essays in Changing My Mind made me want to pick up books I haven't touched since college. Others made me want to pick up a notebook and pen, or my copy of The Philadelphia Story, or the phone to call my parents and tell them I love them.

The thing that impressed me most about this collection is how nimble Smith's mind is, and how good she is of living up to the credo of E.M. Forster, one of her literary heroes: "Only connect." (There's a good essay about him in here, too.)

In one of my...more
Mark
In one of her essays, Zadie Smith discreetly mentions something about her husband. This was a wise choice, because after reading her prose countless men (and perhaps more than a few women) will have decided that this is the woman they want on the other side of their breakfast table. I found these essays a delight, even when she is discussing literature I haven't read (e.g. David Foster Wallace, Zora Neale Hurston and others), or movies I haven't seen. My favorite essay is about her family's come...more
Sarah
This book made me laugh out loud several times, and tear up just as often. Something special about reading the words of someone you admire when they are talking about things you love (Katherine Hepburn! Phillip Seymour Hoffman! Fawlty Towers! Buffy the Vampire Slayer! DFW!).
Emily
Essay collections are difficult to rate. It's a given that some essays will speak more to some than others. An essay I find a witty and brilliant encapsulation of truth, you might find boring and obtuse. And in the same collection there will be pieces that bring me to tears with their insight and beauty and pieces that I can barely slog through. Zadie Smith is obviously well-read and thoroughly educated on a wide variety of subjects; she combines topics you never would have thought went together...more
Lauren
Before anything else is written, Chapter Seven "That Crafty Feeling", is perhaps one of the best essays regarding writing that I've ever read. "One Week in Liberia" gave me chills and the need to learn more about what kinds of progress are actually happening in Liberia. "What Does Soulful Mean?" is the love letter to an author I wish I could write. This collection was the bits and pieces of the world I hadn't thought about in too long, and it was perfect in that way.

In many of the reviews of th...more
James
Zadie Smith is pretty damn smart, and has read widely and deeply from the Western Canon. In this collection of essays, she deals with some extremely important literary topics, some of which are very close to my own heart. (Note: I only skimmed some of the autobiographical essays and her short film reviews, and her lectures on the craft of writing. They are interesting but not nearly as interesting, in my opinion, as her literary criticism.)

One of her most touching and important essays is about Z...more
Carrie Lorig
it's not imperative to read this book. but zadie smith is so wonderful. i want all of her super powers. it's such a pleasure to admire her. she's as humble as she is intelligent and able to engage in literature from many angles because of it. (she writes about kafka as effectively as she writes about tom mccarthy and joseph o'neill.) she's every bit the kind of dynamic woman she argues kat. hepburn was. plus, everything she says about 50 cent's movie is fucking weird and straight out of the blog...more
Larissa
Picked up while browsing the Portland (Maine) public library, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays is, maybe somewhat strangely, my first introduction to Zadie Smith, whose fiction I have always heard all manner of raves about. But I was looking for something in a non-fiction narrative vein--seems to be the mood I am in right now--and a number of the essays in this collection seemed intriguing. I may not read the whole collection, but given the variety of subject matter that she covers, I think I...more
Cheryl
The essays collected by Zadie Smith in CHANGING MY MIND: OCCASIONAL ESSAYS are scholarly looks at authors (Iris Murdoch, E.M. Forster, Kafka, George Eliot, Roland Barthes, Nabokov) styles and contributions. An appreciation of David Foster Wallace's complexity in mind and writing is addressed after his suicide in 2008. Cultural icons (Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo) attract the author's insatiable curiosity. Even at 34, Ms. Smith wanted to take a second look at issues and ideas to evaluate her co...more
Hannah  Messler
Oh, Zadie Smith. I wish this were a novel. But proofs of collections of essays are good for reading on the train when your home fiction book is a fat old heavy hardcover. And I see that you will be talking about DFW in the end! So . . . good.

Oh man! This was comPLETEly great. Zadie Smith is clever as a devil. And her memoriam to David Foster Wallace is beeaauuutiful.

Except some creepy asshole was trying to crush me into the dumpster with his giant behind while I was finishing the last page. Whi...more
Hermano Cerdo
Cambiar de idea lleva en su edición original el subtítulo "ensayos ocasionales". Con ello Zadie Smith indica que no hay en este libro una intención unitaria, como excusándose a sí misma desde el prólogo: estos textos "se escribieron para ocasiones concretas, para editores concretos" entre 2003 y 2009. Hay artículos para el New Yorker y The Guardian, tres conferencias, un prólogo, relatos autobiográficos y críticas de cine. Si creyéramos a la autora parecería que aquí no encontraremos más que fra...more
For Books' Sake
The essays in Changing My Mind cover delightfully random topics like a trip to Hollywood during Oscars season, the arduous process of writing a novel and why Date Movie is the worst film ever made.

This being Zadie Smith, the writing is an absolute joy to read. Every sentence is considered without sounding laboured. There’s genuine emotion but not soppiness. And her signature dry humour peppers every page. But entertaining as Changing My Mind is, it’s more than just a collection of musings and ha...more
Clare Herbert
I’m a big Zadie Smith fan. Every since my first greedy, rushed reading of ‘White Teeth’, I’ve loved her prose, her sense of a story, her impeccable eye for nuanced detail. Her work is among the best in modern literary fiction: energetic, precise and very readable.

This, her most personal book to date, is a collection of essays ranging from film reviews of Date Movie and Shopgirl (among others) to literary criticism of Barthes, Kafka and Forester. She explores Obama’s use of language, her childhoo...more
James Murphy
Changing My Mind is subtitled Occasional Essays. They were written on commission and for specific publications. For that reason, maybe, they sometimes lack fire. There are 5 sections of essays: Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, and Remembering. I enjoyed the first, Reading, the most because I think in writing about such people as Forster or Kafka, or novels like Middlemarch, she has penetrating things to say and ways of seeing. Because she so enthusiastically experesses many things about reading...more
Laura Lee
I am not giving this book a star rating. It comes down to one of those philosophical quandaries about book ratings. The only thing a person can truly rate is one's own relationship to a book. Yet the star ratings and often reviews tend to be taken as an assessment of the objective value of the book. So do you give a star rating based on how you responded to the book, did it give you 1 or 5 stars worth of enjoyment, edification, entertainment, thought or do you try to put aside your subjective ex...more
Alyssa Udall
During my recent pillage visit to the Orem Public Library, I picked up a work of non-fiction along with my stack of 15 young adult novels: Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith. I had read Zadie Smith's On Beauty and some of her interviews online, so I knew this book would be good for me.

But, because this book is good for me (good to exercise my mind, good to get me out of the habit of reading through books in an almost semi-conscious state) I don't exactly like reading it. This boo...more
Nilda Brooklyn
White Teeth made me a devoted follower of Zadie Smith. I’ll read anything she writes, however, this does not mean that I have enjoyed everything that has come after her first book. Since White Teeth, my favorite Smith writings have been her book reviews for Harper’s. So I was excited when Changing My Mind, a collection of occasional essays, became available at the library. Besides being a quick read (for those of you that have book commitment phobias), the book contains insightful essays on plac...more
Matt
Some damn fine essays. A few to skim maybe, too - but "Rereading Barthes and Nabokov," "Two Directions for the Novel," and "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace" offered some of the better analysis I've read in recent years, and some of her memoir essays touched a nerve as well ("Speaking in Tongues," "Accidental Hero," "Dead Man Laughing"). Quite good.

[4 stars for refreshing intelligence, for restoring faith in writer's capacity for good words & sen...more
Frances Dinger
Essay collections are my favorite kind of memoirs and I actually think I like Smith's non-fiction better than her fiction, so this was (mostly) a really great read. A couple of the essays in the "Reading" section felt somewhat plodding and were tedious to get through, but I think that is mostly because I wasn't familiar with the texts Smith was interrogating. But the rest of the collection was great and full of variety, which makes writing a review a little difficult.

Initially, I bought this boo...more
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Zadie on Katharine Hepburn 1 6 Jun 06, 2013 12:38PM  
  • The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000
  • Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
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  • The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
  • Finding a Form
  • Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays
  • Living, Thinking, Looking: Essays
  • This Is Running for Your Life: Essays
  • At Large and at Small: Familiar Essays
  • No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays
  • Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
  • Both Flesh and Not: Essays
  • Pulphead
  • Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature
  • Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain
  • The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
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  • Karaoke Culture
2522
Zadie Smith (born Sadie Smith October 27, 1975) is an English novelist. To date she has written four novels, and is widely regarded as one of England's most talented young authors; in 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zadie_Smith

More about Zadie Smith...
White Teeth On Beauty NW The Autograph Man The Book of Other People

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“Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own.” 42 likes
“Other people’s words are so important. And then without warning they stop being important, along with all those words of yours that their words prompted you to write. Much of the excitement of a new novel lies in the repudiation of the one written before. Other people’s words are the bridge you use to cross from where you were to wherever you’re going.” 12 likes
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