recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : zadiesmith   20

Jia Tolentino Wants You to Read Children’s Books - The New York Times
““A really good middle-grade novel,” says the New Yorker essayist, whose debut collection is “Trick Mirror,” “will supersede a lot of contemporary fiction in terms of economy, lucidity and grace.”

What books are on your nightstand?

When I like a book, I carry it around everywhere until I finish it, like a subway rat dragging a slice of pizza down the stairs. So usually if a book is living on my nightstand, it’s not my thing. Right now, though, I’ve got a galley of Anna Wiener’s “Uncanny Valley” keeping me company — it’s so deft and stunning that I started rereading chunks of it as soon as I was done.

What’s the last book that really excited you?

“Death’s End,” the final installment of Liu Cixin’s Three-Body trilogy, in which the narrative and conceptual momentum of the series takes off at a scale and velocity I couldn’t possibly have imagined before reading. The Three-Body trilogy makes insignificance and unknowability and futility seem so spiritually exciting that I felt breathless. I’d join a book club that just discusses it every month for a year.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Rebecca Stead’s “When You Reach Me” won the Newbery Medal, so it’s certainly not unheralded, but everyone tunes me out when I recommend it, since it was written for kids. Their mistake! A really good middle-grade novel — and this book, a “Wrinkle in Time”-esque mystery set on the Upper West Side in the late 1970s, is a phenomenal one — will supersede a lot of contemporary fiction in terms of economy, lucidity and grace.

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

“Random Family,” by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. It’s so spicy, so riveting, so empathetic and devoted, so alive in the world as it actually is. No shots to Chaucer and “A Separate Peace” and all that, but I think a lot of people might be far more interested in reading (and possibly more interested in other lives in general) if they got to read books like this in high school.

What book would you recommend to people over 40?

“Kids These Days,” by Malcolm Harris. Most writing about millennials has tended to focus on effects rather than causes: After all, it’s easier to make a spectacle of the ways instability manifests itself in young people than it is to really reckon with the fact that capitalism has reached a stage of inexorable acceleration that has broken our country’s institutions and (arguably) my generation’s soul. “Kids These Days,” thankfully, goes straight for the point.

[ Tolentino’s new book, “Trick Mirror,” was one of our most anticipated titles of August. See the full list. ]

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

Ocean Vuong, Jenny Odell, Doreen St. Félix, Vinson Cunningham, Bryan Washington, Tommy Orange, Jenny Zhang, Ross Gay, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit, Emily Nussbaum, Rebecca Traister, Brit Bennett, Caity Weaver, Rachel Aviv, Kathryn Schulz, Pamela Colloff, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Patrick Radden Keefe, Patricia Lockwood, Samantha Irby, Leslie Jamison, Lauren Groff, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Wesley Morris, Meg Wolitzer, Marlon James, Ted Chiang, Eula Biss.

You once described yourself as “an obsessive and catholic reader.” What moves you most in a work of literature?

Bravery and surrender, which can manifest in so many forms.

Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually?

I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a purely emotional or purely intellectual reaction to anything, let alone to anything I was reading. Systems and concepts are always inextricable from the way they shape our hearts, and I love books that demonstrate this, like Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted,” or George Saunders’s “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.”

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

From Casey Cep’s “Furious Hours,” that Harper Lee was once neighbors with Daryl Hall and John Oates. What?!

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I’ll read almost anything, though I don’t love reading about history and science as much as I love whatever I learn. The only books I actively avoid are the “how X explains all of human civilization” books — the type seemingly written for men who love a counterintuitive idea but find complex thought disturbing — as well as those “how to be a perfectly imperfect goddess who doesn’t give a f**k” books. I don’t like anything with a sales pitch that’s like, “Hey, you’re a woman!” These books feel like dolls of Frida Kahlo dressed as Rosie the Riveter or something, like display objects that chirp the word “badass” when you press their hand.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

My boyfriend got me a first edition of Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” — one of my favorite books of all time — about seven years ago, and this past year, he gave me a copy of “Eve’s Hollywood” with a note in it for me from Eve Babitz herself. I almost keeled over on the spot.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

Turtle Wexler from “The Westing Game” and Undine Spragg from “The Custom of the Country.”

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I would read while Rollerblading around my neighborhood, read while eating, read in the car, read in the bathtub — my books were stained, swollen, ripped to shreds. I was always just desperate to be constantly reading. I’d memorize the copy on the Herbal Essences bottle in the shower; I read “Gone With the Wind” about 20 times in fourth grade. I remember things from kids’ books much more clearly than I remember anything about my life even a few years ago. I’ve got a mental encyclopedia of useless sensory details: the lavender-and-black bathroom in “Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself,” the tin peddler’s wares in “Farmer Boy,” the meals that Francie Nolan helped her mother make from stale bread.

You’re a digital native, and your publisher describes you as “what Susan Sontag would have been like if she had brain damage from the internet.” Do you find it difficult to tune out distractions and sink into a book?

In part because I am very aware of what the internet is doing to my sense of scale and reason, I spend a good amount of my life seeking out states of being — like reading — that are so consuming and pleasurable that I won’t grab my phone and interrupt. It also helps that for most of my life I’ve read a paper book for an hour or two every night before falling asleep: It was always a way of managing my insomnia, which I’ve had since I was little, and is now a regular reminder of how much more like myself I feel when I’m not shattering my attention to bits.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

There are plenty of beloved books I don’t like at all — the most demographically fine-tuned version of this for me is probably Chris Kraus’s “I Love Dick.” But I have a hard time accessing a sense of “supposed to” with pop culture. I read whatever I feel like reading, and if neither the book nor my reaction to it interests me, I put it down without another thought. I’m a big believer, anyway, that reading is like eating: The most fun lies in finding a match for your mood. If I read 20 pages of something people love and I can’t get into it, then I welcome the possibility that a few years from now it could be the perfect thing.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

Nearly everything about being alive feels embarrassing, but the enormous gap between what I’d like to have read and what I have actually read does not. As it is, I read a hundred books a year and it doesn’t seem to matter — there will always be so many books I haven’t read yet, and I will always be kind of stupid no matter how much I read. For example, I only recently realized that when people turn 30 they are completing their 30th year of life rather than beginning it. It’s possible that I’d have grasped that basic fact and many others much earlier if my head weren’t so stuffed with so much minutiae about the Shackleton expedition, so many descriptions of light from James Salter short stories, all these invisible psychosocial landscapes from all these books.

What do you plan to read next?

I’ve got to read the Lydia Davis translation of “Madame Bovary.” I’m having physical cravings for it. If I could stop time right now I’d lie down in the grass somewhere and go straight through from beginning to end.”
jiatolentino  howweread  reading  books  2019  internet  susansontag  web  online  digitalnatives  attention  yafiction  genre  malcolmharris  adriannicoleleblanc  tebeccastead  liucixin  oceanvuong  jennyodell  doreenstfélix  vinsoncunningham  bryanwashington  tommyorange  jennyzhang  rossgay  zadiesmith  rebeccasolnit  emilynussbaum  rebeccatraister  britbennett  caityweaver  rachelaviv  kathrynschulz  pamelacolloff  gideonlewis-kraus  patrickraddenkeefe  patricialockwood  smanthairby  lesliejamison  laurengoff  johnjeremiahsullivan  wesleymorris  megwolitzer  marlonjames  tedchiang  eulabiss  bythebook  georgesaunders  matthewdesmond  caseycep  sherwoodanderson  thewestinggame  chriskraus  lydiadavis  madamebovary 
yesterday by robertogreco
not a contrarian | sara hendren
"From this series of questions to Zadie Smith [https://losarciniegas.blogspot.com/2018/01/zadie-smith-i-have-very-messy-and.html ] comes Teju Cole’s question:

Cole: You must be under some pressure to be agreeable, to agree with the right opinions. But I notice that you think through things, rather than just agreeing to them. How do you defend that space of independent thought?

Smith: I don’t think of myself as a contrarian. I’m useless at confrontation. But I also can’t stand dogma, lazy ideas, catchphrases, group-think, illogic, pathos disguised as logos, shoutiness, ad hominem attacks, bombast, liberal piety, conservative pomposity, ideologues, essentialists, technocrats, preachers, fanatics, cheerleaders or bullies. Like everybody, I am often guilty of some version of all of the above, but I do think the job of writing is to at least try and minimise that sort of thing as much as you can."
zadiesmith  tejucole  sarahendren  2018  confrontation  opinions  pressure  contrarians  contrarianism  thinking  dogma  laziness  catchphrases  groupthink  logic  pathos  logos  adhominenattacks  pomposity  ideology  essntialism  technocrats  preachers  preaching  fanaticism  cheerleading  bullying  writing  howwewrote  howwwethink 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Zadie Smith: dance lessons for writers | Books | The Guardian
"“Fred Astaire represents the aristocracy when he dances,” claimed Gene Kelly, in old age, “and I represent the proletariat.” The distinction is immediately satisfying, though it’s a little harder to say why. Tall, thin and elegant, versus muscular and athletic – is that it? There’s the obvious matter of top hat and tails versus T-shirt and slacks. But Fred sometimes wore T-shirts and slacks, and was not actually that tall, he only stood as if he were, and when moving always appeared elevated, to be skimming across whichever surface: the floor, the ceiling, an ice rink, a bandstand. Gene’s centre of gravity was far lower: he bends his knees, he hunkers down. Kelly is grounded, firmly planted, where Astaire is untethered, free-floating.

Likewise, the aristocrat and the proletariat have different relations to the ground beneath their feet, the first moving fluidly across the surface of the world, the second specifically tethered to a certain spot: a city block, a village, a factory, a stretch of fields. Cyd Charisse claimed her husband always knew which of these dancers she’d been working with by looking at her body at the end of the day: bruised everywhere if it was Kelly, not a blemish if it was Astaire. Not only aloof when it came to the ground, Astaire was aloof around other people’s bodies. Through 15 years and 10 movies, it’s hard to detect one moment of real sexual tension between Fred and his Ginger. They have great harmony but little heat. Now think of Kelly with Cyd Charisse in the fantasy sequence of Singin’ in the Rain! And maybe this is one of the advantages of earthiness: sex."



"But both men were excellent dancers. Putting aside the difference in height, physically they had many similarities. Terribly slight, long necked, thin-legged, powered from the torso rather than the backside, which in both cases was improbably small. And in terms of influence they were of course equally indebted to James Brown. The splits, the rise from the splits, the spin, the glide, the knee bend, the jerk of the head – all stolen from the same source.

Yet Prince and Jackson are nothing alike when they dance, and it’s very hard to bring to mind Prince dancing, whereas it is practically impossible to forget Jackson. It sounds irrational, but try it for yourself. Prince’s moves, no matter how many times you may have observed them, have no firm inscription in memory; they never seem quite fixed or preserved. If someone asks you to dance like Prince, what will you do? Spin, possibly, and do the splits, if you’re able. But there won’t appear to be anything especially Prince-like about that. It’s mysterious. How can you dance and dance, in front of millions of people, for years, and still seem like a secret only I know? (And isn’t it the case that to be a Prince fan is to feel that Prince was your secret alone?)

I never went to see Michael Jackson, but I saw Prince half a dozen times. I saw him in stadiums with thousands of people, so have a rational understanding that he was in no sense my secret, that he was in fact a superstar. But I still say his shows were illegible, private, like the performance of a man in the middle of a room at a house party. It was the greatest thing you ever saw and yet its greatness was confined to the moment in which it was happening."



"The art of not dancing – a vital lesson. Sometimes it is very important to be awkward, inelegant, jerking, to be neither poetic nor prosaic, to be positively bad. To express other possibilities for bodies, alternative values, to stop making sense. It’s interesting to me that both these artists did their “worst” dancing to their blackest cuts. “Take me to the river,” sings Byrne, in square trousers 20 times too large, looking down at his jerking hips as if they belong to someone else. This music is not mine, his trousers say, and his movements go further: maybe this body isn’t mine, either. At the end of this seam of logic lies a liberating thought: maybe nobody truly owns anything.

People can be too precious about their “heritage”, about their “tradition” – writers especially. Preservation and protection have their place but they shouldn’t block either freedom or theft. All possible aesthetic expressions are available to all peoples – under the sign of love. Bowie and Byrne’s evident love for what was “not theirs” brings out new angles in familiar sounds. It hadn’t occurred to me before seeing these men dance that a person might choose, for example, to meet the curve of a drum beat with anything but the matching curving movement of their body, that is, with harmony and heat. But it turns out you can also resist: throw up a curious angle and suddenly spasm, like Bowie, or wonder if that’s truly your own arm, like Byrne.

I think of young Luther Vandross, singing backup a few feet behind Bowie, during Young Americans, watching Bowie flail and thrash. I wonder what his take on all that was. Did he ever think: “Now, what in the world is he doing?” But a few performances in, it was clear to everybody. Here was something different. Something old, and yet new."
zadiesmith  dance  dancing  writing  fredastaire  genekelly  haroldnicholas  fayardnicholas  michaeljackson  prince  2016  janetjackson  madonna  beyoncé  davidbyrne  davidbowie  rudolfnureyev  mikhailbaryshnikov 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Zadie Smith: Speaking in Tongues (2008) by New York Review of Books | Free Listening on SoundCloud
"December 5, 2008: What does it mean when we speak in different ways to different people? Is it a sign of duplicity or the mark of a complex sensibility? Novelist and critic Zadie Smith takes a look at register and tone, from the academy to the streets, through black and white, with examples.

The Robert B. Silvers Lecture is an annual series created by Max Palevsky. The series features writers and thinkers whose fields correspond to the broad range of Mr. Silvers’s interests in literature, the arts, politics, economics, history, and the sciences."
zadiesmith  2008  tolisten  codeswitching  race  communication  multiplicity  language 
february 2016 by robertogreco
Library as Infrastructure
"For millennia libraries have acquired resources, organized them, preserved them and made them accessible (or not) to patrons. But the forms of those resources have changed — from scrolls and codices; to LPs and LaserDiscs; to e-books, electronic databases and open data sets. Libraries have had at least to comprehend, if not become a key node within, evolving systems of media production and distribution. Consider the medieval scriptoria where manuscripts were produced; the evolution of the publishing industry and book trade after Gutenberg; the rise of information technology and its webs of wires, protocols and regulations. 1 At every stage, the contexts — spatial, political, economic, cultural — in which libraries function have shifted; so they are continuously reinventing themselves and the means by which they provide those vital information services.

Libraries have also assumed a host of ever-changing social and symbolic functions. They have been expected to symbolize the eminence of a ruler or state, to integrally link “knowledge” and “power” — and, more recently, to serve as “community centers,” “public squares” or “think tanks.” Even those seemingly modern metaphors have deep histories. The ancient Library of Alexandria was a prototypical think tank, 2 and the early Carnegie buildings of the 1880s were community centers with swimming pools and public baths, bowling alleys, billiard rooms, even rifle ranges, as well as book stacks. 3 As the Carnegie funding program expanded internationally — to more than 2,500 libraries worldwide — secretary James Bertram standardized the design in his 1911 pamphlet “Notes on the Erection of Library Buildings,” which offered grantees a choice of six models, believed to be the work of architect Edward Tilton. Notably, they all included a lecture room.

In short, the library has always been a place where informational and social infrastructures intersect within a physical infrastructure that (ideally) supports that program.

Now we are seeing the rise of a new metaphor: the library as “platform” — a buzzy word that refers to a base upon which developers create new applications, technologies and processes. In an influential 2012 article in Library Journal, David Weinberger proposed that we think of libraries as “open platforms” — not only for the creation of software, but also for the development of knowledge and community. 4 Weinberger argued that libraries should open up their entire collections, all their metadata, and any technologies they’ve created, and allow anyone to build new products and services on top of that foundation. The platform model, he wrote, “focuses our attention away from the provisioning of resources to the foment” — the “messy, rich networks of people and ideas” — that “those resources engender.” Thus the ancient Library of Alexandria, part of a larger museum with botanical gardens, laboratories, living quarters and dining halls, was a platform not only for the translation and copying of myriad texts and the compilation of a magnificent collection, but also for the launch of works by Euclid, Archimedes, Eratosthenes and their peers."



"Partly because of their skill in reaching populations that others miss, libraries have recently reported record circulation and visitation, despite severe budget cuts, decreased hours and the threatened closure or sale of “underperforming” branches. 9 Meanwhile the Pew Research Center has released a series of studies about the materials and services Americans want their libraries to provide. Among the findings: 90 percent of respondents say the closure of their local public library would have an impact on their community, and 63 percent describe that impact as “major.”"



"Again, we need to look to the infrastructural ecology — the larger network of public services and knowledge institutions of which each library is a part. How might towns, cities and regions assess what their various public (and private) institutions are uniquely qualified and sufficiently resourced to do, and then deploy those resources most effectively? Should we regard the library as the territory of the civic mind and ask other social services to attend to the civic body? The assignment of social responsibility isn’t so black and white — nor are the boundaries between mind and body, cognition and affect — but libraries do need to collaborate with other institutions to determine how they leverage the resources of the infrastructural ecology to serve their publics, with each institution and organization contributing what it’s best equipped to contribute — and each operating with a clear sense of its mission and obligation."



"Libraries need to stay focused on their long-term cultural goals — which should hold true regardless of what Google decides to do tomorrow — and on their place within the larger infrastructural ecology. They also need to consider how their various infrastructural identities map onto each other, or don’t. Can an institution whose technical and physical infrastructure is governed by the pursuit of innovation also fulfill its obligations as a social infrastructure serving the disenfranchised? What ethics are embodied in the single-minded pursuit of “the latest” technologies, or the equation of learning with entrepreneurialism?

As Zadie Smith argued beautifully in the New York Review of Books, we risk losing the library’s role as a “different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal.” Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, offered an equally eloquent plea for the library as a space of exception:
Libraries are not, or at least should not be, engines of productivity. If anything, they should slow people down and seduce them with the unexpected, the irrelevant, the odd and the unexplainable. Productivity is a destructive way to justify the individual’s value in a system that is naturally communal, not an individualistic or entrepreneurial zero-sum game to be won by the most industrious.


Libraries, she argued, “will always be at a disadvantage” to Google and Amazon because they value privacy; they refuse to exploit users’ private data to improve the search experience. Yet libraries’ failure to compete in efficiency is what affords them the opportunity to offer a “different kind of social reality.” I’d venture that there is room for entrepreneurial learning in the library, but there also has to be room for that alternate reality where knowledge needn’t have monetary value, where learning isn’t driven by a profit motive. We can accommodate both spaces for entrepreneurship and spaces of exception, provided the institution has a strong epistemic framing that encompasses both. This means that the library needs to know how to read itself as a social-technical-intellectual infrastructure."



"In libraries like BiblioTech — and the Digital Public Library of America — the collection itself is off-site. Do patrons wonder where, exactly, all those books and periodicals and cloud-based materials live? What’s under, or floating above, the “platform”? Do they think about the algorithms that lead them to particular library materials, and the conduits and protocols through which they access them? Do they consider what it means to supplant bookstacks with server stacks — whose metal racks we can’t kick, lights we can’t adjust, knobs we can’t fiddle with? Do they think about the librarians negotiating access licenses and adding metadata to “digital assets,” or the engineers maintaining the servers? With the increasing recession of these technical infrastructures — and the human labor that supports them — further off-site, behind the interface, deeper inside the black box, how can we understand the ways in which those structures structure our intellect and sociality?

We need to develop — both among library patrons and librarians themselves — new critical capacities to understand the distributed physical, technical and social architectures that scaffold our institutions of knowledge and program our values. And we must consider where those infrastructures intersect — where they should be, and perhaps aren’t, mutually reinforcing one another. When do our social obligations compromise our intellectual aspirations, or vice versa? And when do those social or intellectual aspirations for the library exceed — or fail to fully exploit — the capacities of our architectural and technological infrastructures? Ultimately, we need to ensure that we have a strong epistemological framework — a narrative that explains how the library promotes learning and stewards knowledge — so that everything hangs together, so there’s some institutional coherence. We need to sync the library’s intersecting infrastructures so that they work together to support our shared intellectual and ethical goals."
shannonmattern  2014  libraries  infrastructure  access  accessibility  services  government  civics  librarians  information  ethics  community  makerspaces  privacy  safety  learning  openstudioproject  education  lcproject  zadiesmith  barbarafister  seattle  nyc  pittsburgh  culture  google  neoliberalism  knowledge  diversity  inequality  coworking  brooklyn  nypl  washingtondc  architecture  design  hackerlabs  hackerspaces  annebalsamo  technology  chicago  ncsu  books  mexicocity  mexicodf  davidadjaye  social  socialinfrastructure  ala  intellectualfreedom  freedom  democracy  publicgood  public  lifelonglearning  saltlakecity  marellusturner  partnerships  toyoito  refuge  cities  ericklinenberg  economics  amazon  disparity  mediaproduction  readwrite  melvildewey  df 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Watch Zadie Smith and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie Talk Postcolonial Lit - COLORLINES
"It’s hard to find two writers who are more important than Zadie Smith and Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie. Both women have written wonderfully well-recieved novels that often touch on race. On Wednesday, March 19 at 6:30pm EST they’ll be in conversation at the Schomberg Center and the discussion will be broadcast live.

What is especially is interesting is how Adichie’s most recent novel, “Americanah,” has opened up dialogue between American-born black women and black women born in Caribbean and African countries. Will they discuss that? We’ll see."
zadiesmith  chimamandangoziadichie  chimamandaadichie  literature  race  postcolonial  2014  class  writing  love  empathy  nigeria  us  uk  reality  perspective  africa  africans  africanamericans  immigrants  migrants  immigration  identity  youth  life  living 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Teju Cole: By the Book - NYTimes.com
"What books are currently on your night stand?

I just got in the “Selected Poems” of Bill Manhire, who is from New Zealand. He’s a mature poet with his own voice, but his unobtrusive authority and his tenderness remind me of Seamus Heaney. I’m teaching Intermediate Fiction at Bard this semester, and I’ve assigned Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Petina Gappah, Lydia Davis and Stephanie Vaughn. So I’m rereading them, too.

Who is your favorite novelist of all time? And your favorite novelist writing today?

Penelope Fitzgerald was the author of several slim, perfect novels. “The Blue Flower” and “The Beginning of Spring” both had me abuzz for days the first time I read them. She was curiously perfect. Among living novelists, my favorites include J. M. Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje and Michel Tournier, none of whom need my praise. I cherish James Salter’s short stories, and his every sentence.

Sell us on your favorite overlooked or underappreciated writer.

Lydia Davis is famous, but not nearly famous enough. Ditto Anne Carson. It’s notable that neither of them is really a novelist; “the novel” is overrated, and the writers I find most interesting find ways to escape it.

Have you read any good contemporary poetry lately?

I’m very pleased to have encountered in the past couple of years the work of two astounding young poets, each of whom has one book out: Ishion Hutchinson (“Far District”) and Rowan Ricardo Phillips (“The Ground”). Both have impressive reserves of insight and the language to bring those insights to life. They are the future of American poetry.

And I’m glad I finally got round to reading “Stag’s Leap,” by Sharon Olds. There is the feeling that one gets when one “discovers” a new song only to realize it has a million views on YouTube already. “Stag’s Leap” was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize last year. But the book is new to me, and I love it.

And which recent books by or about photographers would you recommend?

“Wall,” by Josef Koudelka; “Sergio Larrain” (a monograph on the reclusive Chilean genius, who died in 2012); and “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus,” by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen.

I wrote the introductory essay to Richard Renaldi’s “Touching Strangers.” Nevertheless, it is an excellent book. Ivan Vladislavic’s novel “Double Negative” is another great book that wasn’t marred by my introduction.

What are your literary guilty pleasures? Do you have a favorite genre?

No guilt. I read many kinds of things, but my deepest happiness is in reading poetry.

What are your favorite art history books?

I was trained in art history and still get a great deal of joy from reading it. The best art history books, I feel, are as good as the best novels. Among the most illuminating for me are the following: “The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany,” by Michael Baxandall; “The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus,” by Paul Zanker; “The Painting of Modern Life,” by T. J. Clark; “The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art,” by Joseph Leo Koerner; and “Inside Bruegel,” by Edward Snow. The last of these, a startling interpretation of Bruegel’s “Children’s Games,” is great for nonspecialist readers.



What kind of reader were you as a child? And what were your favorite childhood books?

I began early — around 6 — and by the time I was 10 I had read Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” Charles and Mary Lamb’s “Tales From Shakespeare” and an abridged edition of “Tom Sawyer.” I wasn’t a prodigy, but I developed a sense that access to any book was limited only by my interest and my willingness to concentrate.

Whom do you consider your literary heroes?

They are many: Michael Ondaatje, most of all. But also Marguerite Yourcenar, John Berger and Seamus Heaney.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

I suppose at least a little faith in literature’s ability to make us better is what lies behind this question. But I have no such faith. The president has already read many wonderful books from many different cultures. Now we need him to act justly in certain matters: to stop killing people extrajudicially, and to stop deporting people with such enthusiasm. I doubt that more reading will quicken his conscience in these matters.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

Alice Oswald, Laila Lalami and Zadie Smith.

You’ve got an active Twitter account going. Does it influence your thinking or writing process?

I suppose it must. It’s such a combative place at times that it makes me less worried about putting ideas out into the world. You realize that anything you have to say is going to annoy some stranger, so you might as well speak your mind. But being active on Twitter also means that the literary part of my brain — the part that tries to make good sentences — is engaged all the time. My memory is worse than it was a few years ago, but I hope that my ability to write a good sentence has improved.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I have not read most of the big 19th — century novels that people consider “essential,” nor most of the 20th-century ones for that matter. But this does not embarrass me. There are many films to see, many friends to visit, many walks to take, many playlists to assemble and many favorite books to reread. Life’s too short for anxious score-keeping. Also, my grandmother is illiterate, and she’s one of the best people I know. Reading is a deep personal consolation for me, but other things console, too."

[via: http://tumblr.austinkleon.com/post/78770035787 ]

[via: https://twitter.com/tejucole/status/446639178843840512 ]
tejucole  2014  interviews  books  literacy  illiteracy  reading  politics  barackobama  booklists  poetry  novels  literature  writing  howweread  howwewrite  twitter  guiltypleasures  seamusheany  billmanhire  alicemunro  jhumpalahiri  petinagappah  lydiadavis  stephanievaughn  penelopefitzgerald  hmcoetzee  michaelondaatje  miceltournier  jamessalter  annecarson  rowanricardophillips  ishionhutchinson  sharonolds  josefkoudelka  sergiolarrain  robhornstra  arnoldvanbruggen  richardrenaldi  ivanvladislavic  michaelbaxandrall  paulzanker  tjclark  josephleokoerner  edwardsnow  chinuaachebe  charleslamb  marylamb  margueriteyourcenar  johnberger  aliceoswald  lailalalami  zadiesmith  sergiolarraín 
march 2014 by robertogreco
China Miéville: the future of the novel | Books | guardian.co.uk
"With the internet has come proof that there are audiences way beyond the obvious."

"In fact what's becoming obvious - an intriguing counterpoint to the growth in experiment - is the tenacity of relatively traditional narrative-arc-shaped fiction. But you don't radically restructure how the novel's distributed and not have an impact on its form. Not only do we approach an era when absolutely no one who really doesn't want to pay for a book will have to, but one in which the digital availability of the text alters the relationship between reader, writer, and book. The text won't be closed."

"A collection of artists and activists advocating the neoliberalisation of children's minds. That is scandalous and stupid. The text is open. This should – could – be our chance to remember that it was never just us who made it, and it was never just ours."

"We piss and moan about the terrible quality of self-published books, as if slews of god-awful crap weren't professionally expensively published every year."

"There's a contingent relationship between book sales and literary merit, so we should totally break the pretence at a connection, because of our amplifying connection to everyone else, and orient future-ward with a demand.

What if novelists and poets were to get a salary, the wage of a skilled worker?"

"This would only be an exaggeration of the national stipends already offered by some countries for some writers. For the great majority of people who write, it would mean an improvement in their situation, an ability to write full-time. For a few it would mean an income cut, but you know what? It was a good run. And surely it's easily worth it to undermine the marketisation of literature for some kind of collectivity.

But who decides who qualifies as a writer? Does it take one sonnet? Of what quality? Ten novels? 50,000 readers? Ten, but the right readers? God knows we shouldn't trust the state to make that kind of decision. So we should democratise that boisterous debate, as widely and vigorously as possible. It needn't be the mere caprice of taste. Which changes. And people are perfectly capable of judging as relevant and important literature for which they don't personally care. Mistakes will be made, sure, but will they really be worse than the philistine thuggery of the market?

We couldn't bypass the state with this plan, though. So for the sake of literature, apart from any- and everything else, we'll have to take control of it, invert its priorities, democratise its structures, replace it with a system worth having.

So an unresentful sense of writers as people among people, and a fidelity to literature, require political and economic transformation. For futures for novels – and everything else. In the context of which futures, who knows what politics, what styles and which contents, what relationships to what reconceived communities, which struggles to express what inexpressibles, what stories and anti-stories we will all strive and honourably fail to write, and maybe even one day succeed?"
writers  writing  publishers  democratization  democracy  futures  politics  selfpublishing  self-publishing  neoliberalism  copyright  hypertextnovels  fiction  literature  weirdfictionreview  ubuweb  lyricalrealism  zadiesmith  jamesjoyce  poulocoelho  oulipo  modernism  brunoschulz  lawrencedurrell  borges  ebooks  hypertext  hypertextfiction  text  cv  economics  publishing  leisurearts  bookfuturism  futureofbooks  2012  chinamieville  collectivity  money  artleisure 
august 2012 by robertogreco
The North West London Blues by Zadie Smith | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
"If the losses of private companies are to be socialized within already struggling communities the very least we can do is listen to people when they try to tell us where in the hierarchy of their needs things like public space, access to culture, and preservation of environment lie. “But I never use the damn things!” says Mr. Notmytaxes, under the line. Sir, I believe you. However. British libraries received over 300 million visits last year, and this despite the common neglect of the various councils that oversee them. In North West London people are even willing to form human chains in front of them. People have taken to writing long pieces in newspapers to “defend” them. Just saying the same thing over and over again. Defend our libraries. We like libraries. Can we keep our libraries? We need to talk about libraries. Pleading, like children. Is that really where we are?"
london  books  reading  priorities  policy  libraries  2012  zadiesmith 
june 2012 by robertogreco
miscellany · We cannot be all the writers all the time. We can...
"We cannot be all the writers all the time. We can only be who we are. Which leads me to my second point: writers do not write what they want, they write what they can. When I was 21 I wanted to write like Kafka. But, unfortunately for me, I wrote like a script editor for The Simpsons who’d briefly joined a religious cult and then discovered Foucault. Such is life."

—Zadie Smith
zadiesmith  writing  identity  personality  sincerity  experience  life 
august 2011 by robertogreco
Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings? -- Daily Intel [Don't rely on the quotes here. Read the whole thing.]
"…should be a word for that feeling you get when an older person…shames himself by telling young people how to live…

Obviously, the Epiphinator will need to slim down in order to thrive, but a careful study of history shows how impossible it is to determine whether it can return to both power & glory, or whether its demise is imminent…

This moment of anxiety and fear will pass; future generations (there's now one every 3-4 years) will have no idea what they missed, & yet they will go on, marry, divorce, & own pets.

They may even work in journalism, not in the old dusty career paths…

We'll still need professionals to organize the events of the world into narratives, & our story-craving brains will still need the narrative hooks, the cold opens, the dramatic climaxes, & that all-important "■" to help us make sense of the great glut of recent history that is dumped over us every morning. No matter what comes along streams, feeds, & walls, we will still have need of an ending."
technology  media  socialmedia  facebook  privacy  paulford  narrative  jonathanfranzen  zadiesmith  billkeller  zeyneptufekci  life  wisdom  journalism  storytelling  endings  epiphinator  love  living  stevejobs  commencementspeeches  wholeearthcatalog  stewartbrand  aaronsorkin  2011  nuance  feral  unfinished  culture  internet  commencementaddresses 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Zadie Smith's rules for writers | Books | guardian.co.uk
"1 When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.

2 When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

3 Don't romanticise your "vocation". You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no "writer's lifestyle". All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4 Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can't do aren't worth doing. Don't mask self-doubt with contempt.

5 Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

6 Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won't make your writing any better than it is.

7 Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

8 Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

9 Don't confuse honours with achievement…"

[See also http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/10-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-two and http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one and (adding this much later) http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/19/zadie-smith-10-rules-of-writing/ ]
zadiesmith  writing  advice  writers  2010  honors  achievement  reading  howwework 
april 2011 by robertogreco
Cracking the Twitter Case  | American Journalism Review
"Other reporters tried and failed, but The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal tracked down the identity of the man behind the profane and brilliant @MayorEmanuel. Posted: Fri, March 11, 2011"

"Madrigal is thoughtful about technology's role in society, Carmody adds. He and his colleagues "take the long view; they think about history, culture and ideas as much as the latest consumer tech."

Among Madrigal's many areas of interest, the one that probably most informed his story on Sinker is the storytelling potential of social media. "I've been tracking literary uses of Twitter for years," Madrigal says. He lives much of his life online -- Carmody says that although the men are good friends, they have never met face-to-face -- and last year wrote a long and eloquent response to novelist Zadie Smith, who had written that Facebook should be struggled against. Madrigal disagreed strongly, writing that "the real struggle is with ourselves to use Facebook well.""

[via: http://snarkmarket.com/2011/6720 ]
twitter  socialnetworking  us  @mayoremanuel  mayoremanuel  rahmemanuel  timcarmody  journalism  history  technology  zadiesmith  storytelling  danielsinker 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Literary Writers and Social Media: A Response to Zadie Smith - Alexis Madrigal - Technology - The Atlantic
"When professional writers, especially ones trained in the literary arts, see horrifically bad writing online, they recoil. All their training about the value of diverse (or, you know, heteroglossic) societies and the equality of classes goes flying out the window. Social media acts as a kind of truth serum, as Marshall Kirkpatrick likes to say: This is how the masses of people talk. This is how the masses of people write. Not moonlighting bloggers. Not the 20 million NPR listeners. But the other 300 million people trying to LOL their way through boring days at office jobs or in Iraq.

I think we confuse the ability to see what everyday writing looks like -- and probably has for a long time -- with a change in how people write. Toss in that the traditional (usually religious) practices and sayings around serious topics like death or childbearing have lost valence, and you get people just saying what comes to mind. It's not always pretty."
zadiesmith  alexismadrigal  writing  writers  reality  thesocialnetwork  facebook  socialmedia  theory  colloquialwriting  snobbery  insularity  everydaywriting  literature  media  immaturity  perspective 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Generation Why? by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books
"At the time, though, I felt distant from Zuckerberg and all the kids at Harvard. I still feel distant from them now, ever more so, as I increasingly opt out (by choice, by default) of the things they have embraced. We have different ideas about things. Specifically we have different ideas about what a person is, or should be. I often worry that my idea of personhood is nostalgic, irrational, inaccurate. Perhaps Generation Facebook have built their virtual mansions in good faith, in order to house the People 2.0 they genuinely are, and if I feel uncomfortable within them it is because I am stuck at Person 1.0. Then again, the more time I spend with the tail end of Generation Facebook (in the shape of my students) the more convinced I become that some of the software currently shaping their generation is unworthy of them. They are more interesting than it is. They deserve better."

[via: http://ayjay.tumblr.com/post/1481824813/at-the-time-though-i-felt-distant-from ]
zadiesmith  philosophy  social  sociology  markzuckerberg  thesocialnetwork  generations  identity  personhood  nostalgia  facebook  cv  disconnect  jaronlanier 
november 2010 by robertogreco
NYPL: Zadie Smith | ART.CULT
"Last night at the New York Public Library, author Zadie Smith asked what it means when we speak in different ways to different people. Is it a sign of duplicity or the mark of a complex sensibility? In this lecture, Zadie Smith takes a look at register and tone, from the academy to the streets, through black and white, with examples such as Eliza Doolittle, Shakespeare, and Obama. Here’s her lecture, live from the NYPL."

[audio here: http://audio.wnyc.org/culture/culture20081205_nypl.mp3 ]

[See also: http://whatsheonaboutnow.blogspot.com/2009/02/if-youve-got-hour-this-could-cheer-you.html AND http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22334 ]
zadiesmith  barackobama  communication  literature  identity  race  speech  class  experience  accents  dialects  authenticity  culture  books  language  shakespeare  voice  uk  us  writing  politics  audio  recordings  poetry  cv  glvo  self  equivocation 
february 2009 by robertogreco
And Another Thing: If you've got an hour, this could cheer you up
"Today I heard a wonderful thing. It was a lecture called "Speaking In Tongues" given by Zadie Smith in New York. I'm too stupid to be able to capture any more than ten per cent of what she has to say but I found even that percentage inspiringly sane."

[See also: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22334 AND http://blogs.wnyc.org/culture/2008/12/06/speaking-in-tongues-live-at-the-nypl/ ]
zadiesmith  via:russelldavies  barackobama  communication  literature  identity  race  speech  class  experience  accents  dialects  authenticity  culture  books  language  shakespeare  voice  uk  us  writing  politics  audio  recordings  poetry  self  equivocation 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Speaking in Tongues - The New York Review of Books
"It's my audacious hope that a man born and raised between opposing dogmas, between cultures, between voices, could not help but be aware of the extreme contingency of culture. I further audaciously hope that such a man will not mistake the happy accident of his own cultural sensibilities for a set of natural laws, suitable for general application. I even hope that he will find himself in agreement with George Bernard Shaw when he declared, "Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it." But that may be an audacious hope too far. We'll see if Obama's lifelong vocal flexibility will enable him to say proudly with one voice "I love my country" while saying with another voice "It is a country, like other countries." I hope so. He seems just the man to demonstrate that between those two voices there exists no contradiction and no equivocation but rather a proper and decent human harmony."

[see also: http://whatsheonaboutnow.blogspot.com/2009/02/if-youve-got-hour-this-could-cheer-you.html AND http://blogs.wnyc.org/culture/2008/12/06/speaking-in-tongues-live-at-the-nypl/ ]
zadiesmith  barackobama  communication  literature  identity  race  speech  class  experience  accents  dialects  authenticity  culture  books  language  shakespeare  voice  uk  us  writing  politics  audio  recordings  poetry  self  equivocation 
february 2009 by robertogreco
Writing advice from Zadie Smith: write it then put it in (kottke.org)
"It's an unfortunate thing, but it turns out that the perfect state of mind to edit your novel is two years after it's published, ten minutes before you go on stage at a literary festival. At that moment every redundant phrase, each show-off, pointless me
writing  zadiesmith  editing  kottke  time  howwework 
july 2008 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read