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320 pages, Paperback
First published February 6, 2018
I am reminded that to have grown up in a homogeneous culture in a corner of rural England, say, or France, or Poland, during the seventies, eighties or nineties, is to think of oneself as having been simply alive in the world, untroubled by history, whereas to have been raised in London during the same period, with, say, Pakistani Muslims in the house next door, Indian Hindus downstairs, and Latvian Jews across the street, is thought of, by others, as evidence of a specific historical social experiment, now discredited.
“I was very star-struck, I hardly spoke. But I watched his hands all the time, they were like a lesson in themselves,—so elegant.”Smith discusses the comedy marriage of Key & Peele in “Brother from Another Mother,” the comedy duo who grew their audience during the Obama presidency. “…Subject to all the normal pressures of a marriage,” their routine has reached its natural end, but while it was going on it poked fun at attitudes of whites while raising issues faced by blacks. It led us into a more mature understanding and way of interacting by highlighting the ways “blacks” are often not black at all, but mixed and even mostly white. Time to drag one’s consciousness into the 21st Century, America.
. . .my somewhat ambivalent view of human selves is wholly out of fashion. These essays you have in your hands were written in England and America during the eight years of the Obama presidency and so are the product of a bygone world. It is of course hardly possible to maintain any feelings of ambivalence—on either side of the Atlantic—in the face of what we now confront.
Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two. If my writing is a psychodrama I don't think it is because I have, as the internet would have it, so many feels, but because the correct balance and weight to be given to each of these three elements is never self-evident to me. It's this self – whose boundaries are uncertain, whose language is never pure, whose world is in no way “self-evident” – that I try to write from and to. My hope is for a reader who, like the author, often wonders how free she really is, and who takes it for granted that reading involves all the same liberties and exigencies as writing.
They've spent a decade being berated for not making the right sorts of paintings or novels or music or politics. Turns out the brightest 2.0 kids have been doing something else extraordinary. They've been making a world.
When I find myself sitting at dinner next to someone who knows just as much about novels as I do but has somehow also found the mental space to adore and be knowledgeable about opera, have strong opinions about the relative rankings of Renaissance painters, an encyclopedic knowledge of the English Civil War, of French wines – I feel an anxiety that nudges beyond the envious into the existential. How did she find the time?
...the essential, living communication between art work and viewer, a relationship that Yiadom-Boakye reminds us is indeed vicarious, voyeuristic, ambivalent and fundamentally uncontrollable.
I don't remember the name of my particular pill head, but will call him Smiley. He was one of those strangers you met exclusively on dance floors, or on a beach in Ibiza. They tended to have inexplicable nicknames, no home or family you could ever identify, a limitless capacity for drug-taking and a universal feeling of goodwill toward all men and women, no matter their color, creed or state of inebriation.Mine was called Vertigo.