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Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays
by Zadie Smith
May 10, 2017 - May 11, 2017

Done

Smith, Z. (2009). Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays. The Penguin Press HC.


The Penguin Press HC, 2009. 320 pages.

57 42
17

p.296
Chaim Soutine »
A Russian painter of Belarusian Jewish origin w...
p.294
logotherapy »
an existential theory developed by Viktor Frank...
p.294
couvade »
(noun) a custom in some cultures in which when ...
p.292
bombast »
(noun) pretentious inflated speech or writing
p.275
linguistic recursion »
the capacity to embed sentences in other senten...
p.102
other people's words
[...] Other people's words are so important. An...
p.290
Wallace on gifts
To Wallace, a gift truly was an accident; a cha...
p.289
Death Is Not The End
[...] It's about as far from an autobiographica...
p.289
how do I recognize that other people are real
There is a weird ambient sameness to Wallace's ...
p.273
our character that's being investigated
[...] There are times when reading Wallace feel...

3

Their Eyes Were Watching God: What Does Soulful Mean?

  • about the 1937 novel and the best known work by African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston
  • Smith was given it by her mother but resented it--she had her own ideas of what "good writing" was at the time
  • I really liked this essay--I can relate
3 / 4
3

Their Eyes Were Watching God: What Does Soulful Mean?

  • about the 1937 novel and the best known work by African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston
  • Smith was given it by her mother but resented it--she had her own ideas of what "good writing" was at the time
  • I really liked this essay--I can relate
3 / 4
14

E. M. Forster, Middle Manager

  • about 19th century English novelist E. M. Forster, who, though an important figure, was always somewhat secondary to his contemporaries (Woolf, Joyce, Eliot)
  • he worked for the BBC reviewing books for the average person; the transcripts of those talks have been published as The BBC Talks of E. M. Forster
1 / 2
14

E. M. Forster, Middle Manager

  • about 19th century English novelist E. M. Forster, who, though an important figure, was always somewhat secondary to his contemporaries (Woolf, Joyce, Eliot)
  • he worked for the BBC reviewing books for the average person; the transcripts of those talks have been published as The BBC Talks of E. M. Forster
1 / 2
29

Middlemarch and Everybody

  • George Eliot's Middlemarch as the epitome of the Victorian novel, and Henry James' review of it in 1873--basically James didn't like any of the characters except Dorothea
  • the point of Smith's essay is to show why the other characters are valuable too
  • since I never read Middlemarch (and don't ever plan to) I'm not sure this essay is that relevant to me, but it's not bad and it does mention DFW so I can't hate
5 / 4
29

Middlemarch and Everybody

  • George Eliot's Middlemarch as the epitome of the Victorian novel, and Henry James' review of it in 1873--basically James didn't like any of the characters except Dorothea
  • the point of Smith's essay is to show why the other characters are valuable too
  • since I never read Middlemarch (and don't ever plan to) I'm not sure this essay is that relevant to me, but it's not bad and it does mention DFW so I can't hate
5 / 4
42

Rereading Barthes and Nabokov

I LOVED this essay. about the process of reading a novel and two very different approaches to it: Roland Barthes's authorial death sentence and the New Criticism school (Kristeva, Foucault, Derrida), vs Nabokov's view that the author is God. this essay is about finding a balance between the two, because if you go the Barthes route indiscriminately you end up with silly, anachronistic, college-freshman readings that offer little value to anyone. great essay that makes me want to read both Barthes and Nabokov.

8 / 4
42

Rereading Barthes and Nabokov

I LOVED this essay. about the process of reading a novel and two very different approaches to it: Roland Barthes's authorial death sentence and the New Criticism school (Kristeva, Foucault, Derrida), vs Nabokov's view that the author is God. this essay is about finding a balance between the two, because if you go the Barthes route indiscriminately you end up with silly, anachronistic, college-freshman readings that offer little value to anyone. great essay that makes me want to read both Barthes and Nabokov.

8 / 4
58

F. Kafka, Everyman

lovely essay about Kafka. contrasts two biographies about him: one by his friend Max Brod, and one by a Louis Begley (that Smith seems to find superior). covers Kafka's apparent misogyny, as evidenced through his work (comparable to Larkin's); his struggle with his Jewish identity; his struggles with writing and success.

4 / 2
58

F. Kafka, Everyman

lovely essay about Kafka. contrasts two biographies about him: one by his friend Max Brod, and one by a Louis Begley (that Smith seems to find superior). covers Kafka's apparent misogyny, as evidenced through his work (comparable to Larkin's); his struggle with his Jewish identity; his struggles with writing and success.

4 / 2
72

Two Directions for the Novel

comparing and contrasting two recent Anglophone novels: Netherland by Joseph O'Neill and Remainder by Tom McCarthy. Remainder is the weird one about the coma patient who tries to re-enact (or: enact) his forgotten life. this essay covers Remainder a lot more than Netherland and it seems like Smith finds the former to be far more interesting.

a large part of this essay is about an event when McCarthy and philosopher Simon Critchley read out "The Joint Statement of Inauthenticity", latest manifesto of the International Necronautical Society in 2007. still not entirely sure what that's all about but I guess it has something to do with literary theory. my biggest takeaway from this essay is merely that I have a lot to read if I want a better grounding in literary theory ...

4 / 1
72

Two Directions for the Novel

comparing and contrasting two recent Anglophone novels: Netherland by Joseph O'Neill and Remainder by Tom McCarthy. Remainder is the weird one about the coma patient who tries to re-enact (or: enact) his forgotten life. this essay covers Remainder a lot more than Netherland and it seems like Smith finds the former to be far more interesting.

a large part of this essay is about an event when McCarthy and philosopher Simon Critchley read out "The Joint Statement of Inauthenticity", latest manifesto of the International Necronautical Society in 2007. still not entirely sure what that's all about but I guess it has something to do with literary theory. my biggest takeaway from this essay is merely that I have a lot to read if I want a better grounding in literary theory ...

4 / 1
99

That Crafty Feeling

from a lecture given to Columbia University's Writing Program in 2008, titled "to speak about some aspect of your craft"

  • Micro Managers (who write a book one sentence at a time) vs Macro Planners--Smith is the former, I'm definitely the latter
  • the value of reading other people's words when you're trying to write
0 / 3
99

That Crafty Feeling

from a lecture given to Columbia University's Writing Program in 2008, titled "to speak about some aspect of your craft"

  • Micro Managers (who write a book one sentence at a time) vs Macro Planners--Smith is the former, I'm definitely the latter
  • the value of reading other people's words when you're trying to write
0 / 3
110

One Week in Liberia

this was a really depressing non-literary essay about Liberia: its history, present-day poverty, Smith's ruminations on the futility of an education system with barely any budget in a country where the only good jobs are either in government or working for an American rubber company (Firestone). NGOs try to fill in the gap, but their resources are limited, and there are further limitations imposed by the lack of government investment in infrastructure. plus the focus on young girls (at the expense of the boys) seems foreboding ...

1 / 4
110

One Week in Liberia

this was a really depressing non-literary essay about Liberia: its history, present-day poverty, Smith's ruminations on the futility of an education system with barely any budget in a country where the only good jobs are either in government or working for an American rubber company (Firestone). NGOs try to fill in the gap, but their resources are limited, and there are further limitations imposed by the lack of government investment in infrastructure. plus the focus on young girls (at the expense of the boys) seems foreboding ...

1 / 4
132

Speaking in Tongues

about Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father and his wonderful gift of being able to capture other people's voices, both in the book and during his political campaign. as a result, he's able to speak the same way as the people he's speaking to--which some might see as a sign of disingenuousness, but which Smith sees as an indicator of empathy and being able to understand multiple viewpoints, traits that would be great in a President. and of course I agree!

1 / 2
132

Speaking in Tongues

about Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father and his wonderful gift of being able to capture other people's voices, both in the book and during his political campaign. as a result, he's able to speak the same way as the people he's speaking to--which some might see as a sign of disingenuousness, but which Smith sees as an indicator of empathy and being able to understand multiple viewpoints, traits that would be great in a President. and of course I agree!

1 / 2
151

Hepburn and Garbo

about Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo. this one kind of bored me since I know and care so little about either actress

7 / 0
151

Hepburn and Garbo

about Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo. this one kind of bored me since I know and care so little about either actress

7 / 0
166

Notes on Visconti's Bellissima

a review of the 1951 neorealistic Italian film Bellissima, by director Luchino Visconti (supposed to be a satire of the film industry). didn't really get into this one

2 / 1
166

Notes on Visconti's Bellissima

a review of the 1951 neorealistic Italian film Bellissima, by director Luchino Visconti (supposed to be a satire of the film industry). didn't really get into this one

2 / 1
179

At the Multiplex, 2006

reviews of a bunch of different films. the memorable ones:

  • Memoirs of a Geisha, which apparently had Asian actors of all sorts of ethnicities
  • Shopgirl where a 24-year-old Claire Danes begins a relationship with a 50-something man
  • Munich (about the 1972 terrorist attack); not about moral equivalence, but instead about the depths people will go to protect and define their families and clans; about the "narratives we tell ourselves to justify what we have done" (p.187)
  • Brief Encounter (about unconsummated love--see note 356)
  • Good Night, and Good Luck: George Clooney's political docudrama that liberals will enjoy but conservatives won't find convincing
  • Date Movie (the tragic conclusion of irony and satire taken to the extreme)
  • Syriana: about the corruption within and around the global oil industry
  • V for Vendetta: really liked her review of this. see note 357
4 / 5
179

At the Multiplex, 2006

reviews of a bunch of different films. the memorable ones:

  • Memoirs of a Geisha, which apparently had Asian actors of all sorts of ethnicities
  • Shopgirl where a 24-year-old Claire Danes begins a relationship with a 50-something man
  • Munich (about the 1972 terrorist attack); not about moral equivalence, but instead about the depths people will go to protect and define their families and clans; about the "narratives we tell ourselves to justify what we have done" (p.187)
  • Brief Encounter (about unconsummated love--see note 356)
  • Good Night, and Good Luck: George Clooney's political docudrama that liberals will enjoy but conservatives won't find convincing
  • Date Movie (the tragic conclusion of irony and satire taken to the extreme)
  • Syriana: about the corruption within and around the global oil industry
  • V for Vendetta: really liked her review of this. see note 357
4 / 5
212

Ten Notes on Oscar Weekend

her experience attending the Oscars. kind of funny but nothing really memorable--the usual ruminations on Hollywood's insincerity and narcissism

1 / 0
212

Ten Notes on Oscar Weekend

her experience attending the Oscars. kind of funny but nothing really memorable--the usual ruminations on Hollywood's insincerity and narcissism

1 / 0
225

Smith Family Christmas

short and forgettable one about what Christmas is like in her household

1 / 0
225

Smith Family Christmas

short and forgettable one about what Christmas is like in her household

1 / 0
230

Accidental Hero

about her father, who had been part of the invasion at Normandy as a teenager (for England)

1 / 1
230

Accidental Hero

about her father, who had been part of the invasion at Normandy as a teenager (for England)

1 / 1
237

Dead Man Laughing

about her father's passion for comedy, and how the two of them could connect through it. the most memorable part of this essay covered Edward Aczel's anticomedy performance at Edinburgh Fringe Fest (I saw the YouTube video from the same night and it was indeed hilarious)

3 / 2
237

Dead Man Laughing

about her father's passion for comedy, and how the two of them could connect through it. the most memorable part of this essay covered Edward Aczel's anticomedy performance at Edinburgh Fringe Fest (I saw the YouTube video from the same night and it was indeed hilarious)

3 / 2
255

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace

the whole reason I read this book!! hard to summarize this long (40+ page) essay--see notes. mostly about Brief Interviews, but his other works are mentioned periodically as well. she ends the essay with a random list of her favourite things, including:

  • Giorgio de Chirico's paintings of "metaphysical town squares"
  • colours of a Soutine (he was a Russian painter)
  • a quote from In Search of Lost Time
11 / 7
255

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men: The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace

the whole reason I read this book!! hard to summarize this long (40+ page) essay--see notes. mostly about Brief Interviews, but his other works are mentioned periodically as well. she ends the essay with a random list of her favourite things, including:

  • Giorgio de Chirico's paintings of "metaphysical town squares"
  • colours of a Soutine (he was a Russian painter)
  • a quote from In Search of Lost Time
11 / 7