Tag Archives: Zadie Smith

Indians can write… also, I love Zadie Smith


I just remembered this quote from Zadie Smith’s White Teeth

You hear girls in the toilets of clubs saying, ‘Yeah, he fucked off and left me. He just couldn’t deal with love. He was too fucked up to know how to love me.’ Now how did that happen? What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll–then we call them crazy… We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that their might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.*

which made me love her and that book all over again. Talk about uncomfortable truth. I must re-read it sometime soon.

The book I won’t be reading again ever is The Accidental by Ali Smith. I carried it with me to Gulu, and perhaps I didn’t do it justice in between taking pictures and falling asleep, but it is honestly not a book I can talk about in superlatives. It just falls somewhere between somewhat agonizing and mildly interesting. 

So this 30-something barefoot hippie woman Amber comes unexpectedly into the lives of the Smart family. Astrid the odd preteen daughter dying to stand out and fit in at the same time. Magnus, the sexually frustrated sixteen year old son. Eve, mother and writer who seems to have failed at mothering and writing but is desperately trying to keep up an appearance of the contrary; and Michael the children’s stepfather and Eve’s second husband – a pretentious Linguistics professor whose unfortunate students have to seduce his old ass to get any good grades.
When Amber shows up at their doorstep during a boring family holiday in Norfolk, they take her in.
Exposure of true personalities, emergence of frustrations and relative chaos ensue as Amber begins to bring out the best, worst and hidden sides of everyone, each Smart becoming infatuated with her ‘exoticism’ in their own way.
Ali Smith writes in an experimental manner that dispenses with norms like beginning your sentences, or quoting your dialogue; and inserts entire chapters of painful (to read) love-poetry. She’s like a chameleon narrator taking on her characters’ mannerisms and thought-flows to produce a personal yet jagged sequence of the same events told from several points of view.
I liked the book’s pace, particularly post-Amber’s entry – before that, the characters are so dead, you just want to shake them! I particularly liked Eve’s chapters which are like a QnA session with her soul. But it ends on an odd anticlimax and it’s hard to pick out Smith’s message – assuming there was one. I recommend only if you have spare time aplenty and great patience.
I’m nearly done with the delightful Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. She deals with very much the same themes as Jhumpa Lahiri in Interpreter of Maladies, which is my next to-be-read (thank you Princess). And then Jane Bussman’s The Worst Date Ever, an autobiography of a British celeb-journalist who finds herself in Northern Uganda during the war. It’s supposed to be comic and I want to see how (if) she pulls that off.
*of course I didn’t remember it for word. Google helped.

A post about my weekend plans as if they’re terribly interesting


I haven’t picked up a book in about 3 weeks! So I have every intention of making this weekend a book-y one. I am sitting in my favorite corner of the garden, with Jose Saramago’s Death with Interruptions, as my own little way of honoring this prolific writer’s life. He died on June 18 at the age of 87.

I have searched high and low for his book Blindness, after watching the movie, but no luck. No story has struck me more about the human condition and the moral questions involved in our instincts for self-preservation. [pretentious, me?]

About two weekends ago, I resolved to read Ali Smith’s The Accidental. So I took it down off my shelf and carried it to the breakfast table. My mother saw it and said, “The Accidental what?”

I said, “The Accidental nothing.”

She: How can nothing be accidental?

I: No. Not like that. I mean, it’s The Accidental. Just that.

She: What a silly title. It’s incomplete. What kind of a book is that to read?

My father chimes in: And what is she (girl on the cover) holding in her hand? A gun? Is she dead? Did she shoot herself? [?!]

I: No. I think it’s a camera. And she means ‘the accidental’ in the same way I would say ‘the unfortunate’ or ‘the monumental’.

Both parents sighed.

I wonder who I get this book obsession from?

After conquering Saramago, I have Ali Smith lined up. And speaking of, I have been having dreams about Zadie Smith! Will no one buy me her Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays?

Happy weekend, all!

the controversial cover 🙂