Thursday, January 2, 2014

A little corner of London, microcosm for the world

NW Zadie Smith
One of my goals for 2014 is to explore new and different ways of writing reviews.  While I enjoy my long format because it makes it easy for me to share my thoughts and talk about the points that mattered most to me, I also sometimes dread writing those reviews, particularly for books like this one.  So I am trying to find ways to share what really impacted me about this book without doing a full-on 8 paragraph review of it.  Please let me know what you think!

NW, by Zadie Smith

Quotes that stood out to me:
"-and need to see a proper doctor.  A clinic.  We keep trying.  And nothing.  You're thirty-five this year."
Said Frenchly:  nussing.  Once they were the same age.  Now Leah is aging in dog years.  Her thirty-five is seven times his, and seven times more important, so important he has to keep reminding her of the numbers, in case she forgets.

When being bullied Keisha Blake found it useful to remember that if you read the relevant literature or watched the pertinent movies you soon found that being bullied was practically a sign of a superior personality, and the greater the intensity of the bullying the more likely it was to be avenged at the other end of life, when qualities of the kind Keisha Blake possessed - cleverness, will-to-power - became "their own reward," and this remained true even if the people in the literature and the movies looked nothing like you, came from a different socio-economic and historical universe, and - had they ever met you - would very likely have enslaved you or, at best, bullied you precisely the same extent as Lorna Mackenzie who had a problem with the way you acted like you were better than everyone else.

"You're difficult for her to understand."
"Why?  What's difficult about me?"
"You have your work.  You have Frank.  You've got all these friends.  You're getting to be so successful.  You're never lonely."

Natalie tried to picture the woman being described.

Natalie Blake had completely forgotten what it was like to be poor.  It was a language she'd stopped being able to speak, or even to understand.

Other books that came to mind while reading this one:

Wolf Hall because of the sometimes difficult to follow narrative style

Americanah because of the way Smith used multiple POVs to make a point about how the person I see myself as being can be very different than the person other people see

Tangential events/moments/memories that resonated more deeply because of this book:

Chicago's mindless violence and what a waste it is
Winning the genetic lottery
The Haves and Have-Nots


  1. I think I'm going to try to do better at keeping quotes that strike me this year, although it's so hard for audios especially.

    I like the shorter format, although I don't really know if you enjoyed the book or not.

    1. That is a fair point. Honestly, I don't know if i enjoyed the book or not, either ;-) It was definitely a book I am glad to have read as it brought up a lot of good points to ponder. But I didn't particularly LIKE it.

  2. Anonymous1/02/2014

    I'm planning to change up my reviews this year as well. I like what you've done here, but I would like to know a little of what you thought about the characters or the plot. So maybe add some YOU to it as well because I am always interested in what you bring to your reading experience.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I will have to think about how to do that in a manner that lends itself to this more free-form technique. Fun challenge!

  3. I'm kinda diggin the new format!

    I feel like I'm getting "raw data" about the book. Having quotes from the text and abstract connections made me think in a different way. At first I was wondering whether you liked it, but in reading your response to Carol I realized I actually wanted to know if you regretted reading it. I'll read something a reviewer doesn't like, but when a thoughtful reader says something is a waste of time, that's important.

    Pseudo-relatedly, (a charitable clothing company) is selling shirts and sweatshirts with the "Be Kind, For..." quote on them (and other designs) this week to benefit adoptions for orphans with Down Syndrome. I don't work for them. Just a heads up because you mentioned the quote. - Elle

    1. Yes, "raw data" is such a great way to describe it! The above is not really a review at all, so I shouldn't call it that.

      I don't know whether I enjoyed the book or not, but I don't think that was really the "point" (for lack of a better word) of me reading the book. I certainly got a lot out of the book and I am glad I read it. But no, none of the characters really stood out to me (they were more symbols than living, breathing humans) and there wasn't exactly a plot. It was more a book that made me think, and it made me think about the things I pointed out above.

    2. And thanks for the heads up about the shirts! How serendipitous!


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