Zadie Smith writes this set of essays during the early days of the pandemic. She writes about writing, the intimationspeople in her neighborhood, the pandemic, and racism. These are the essays:

  • Peonies–Smith uses the viewing of a small garden of tulips as a way to discuss herself as a woman and a writer.
  • Something to Do–This essay explores the idea of creative acts as a way to fill time. She also explores why so many people felt the need to be productive in the early days of the pandemic and quarantine.
  • The American Exception–This essay discusses how the deaths that have come with the pandemic are no respecter of persons. She also discusses the American need to war against death and how Americans believe that death comes only to those who deserve it.
  • Suffering like Mel Gibson–This essay discusses privilege and how we all have privileges that we don’t recognize from within our own bubbles. None of our our sufferings look the same.
  • Screengrabs–This essay is composed of vignettes of people she interacts with on the periphery of her daily life. A postscript discusses contempt as if it were a virus.
  • Intimations–This essay is a list of people who have taught Smith. These are people who she feels like she has learned from and owes a debt. She lists each person and explains what she learned and her debt.

I noticed . . .

I noticed ant Smith is writing during the early days of the pandemic, the days before everything became so political and crazed.

I noticed that her screen grabs were of people on the periphery of her life–the people social distancing would not let you normally see.

I noticed that her idea of contempt as a virus pairs very well with an N.K. Jemisin short story I read recently, “Those Who Stay and Fight.”

I wondered . . .

I wondered how Smith’s thoughts and feelings have shifted as she’s processed the last year.

I wondered whether or not the nail place she went to and writes about has managed to stay in business over the last year.

It reminded me of . . .

I was reminded of a couple of stories in N.K. Jemisin’s How  Long ’til Black Future Month? There are a couple of stories like, “The Ones Who Stay and Fight,” which directly address racism.

Smith’s essay comparing racism to a virus also reminded me of Jemar Tisby’s How to Fight Racism. 

I wrote pages of quotes in my notebook after reading this book, and I’ll share some of my favorites tomorrow!

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