Xavier Guillaume's Reviews > Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
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Feb 13, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, audio-book
Recommended for: Those interested in Zadie Smith
Read in February, 2011

I found Zadie Smith a delight to read. About one-half of the way through I fell in love with her voice. Prior to that point I thought she sounded supercilious (for example, her quick dislike of any fiction that was Ethnic).

The most important essay, I believed, was the one on Liberia, because I had no idea how horrid it was there, and it's very important to know about those types of things.

My other favorite essays were the her movie reviews. She's a really talented movie critic. Always with an engaging hook and a very witty finish. Also, her biography on Katherine Hepburn was really interesting too. I almost want to go out and rent as many Katherine Hepburn movies as I can now.

Some of the other essays, however, I found to be somewhat dry. The E.M Forster one for example, or some of the later ones that became too philosophical for my taste. But I do love some of the things she says. For example, her opinions on the role of the author and the reader, and how that role changes as the idea of the novel changes. It's such a silly question though, "Is the novel dead?" I don't understand how anyone can say such a thing, seems most bizarre indeed. I would explain more about Zadie Smith's philosophies on writing, but I bet I would get it wrong, and it's better to just read it in the first place.

I also loved her tips on writing. And I definitely want to take them into consideration, especially the one on hiding your novel for 2 years before publishing, so that you can look at it again from a fresh perspective. Very good advice, especially since it seems so many authors tend to dread or regret their earlier writings. I thought it was funny how she felt embarrassed about White Teeth, I mean it was really the one that made her famous, so it must have been good, but she must not think so.

Anyway, I invite you to read this book, because I'm sure everyone can get at least something from it. I do warn that some parts can be dry or not make the least bit of sense, but that's okay. At least initial exposure to the concepts paves the way for fresh ideas later. :)
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