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Intimations: Six Essays Paperback – July 28, 2020
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“[Smith’s] slim collection of essays captures this peculiar moment with startling clarity. . . . The personal and political intermingle for a powerful indictment of America’s social systems.” —TIME, The 100 Must-Read Books of 2020
“While quarantined amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Smith penned six dazzling, trenchant essays burrowing deep into our contemporary culture of disease and upheaval and reflecting on what was ‘once necessary’ that now ‘appears inessential’—as well as on banana bread, pedicures, and tulips.” —O, The Oprah Magazine, Best Books of 2020
“There are six essays in [Smith’s] new collection, which capture the pandemic moment we’ve been living in with a clarity that only Zadie Smith could unearth in the middle of a pandemic. Even when she’s pushing you to see your own complicity, it’s comforting to have her voice helping you make sense of the world.” —GOOP
“Zadie Smith has always been at least as phenomenal an essayist as she is a novelist. This slim, flash-published volume of reflections on life under quarantine rides the waves of dread, loneliness, community, loss and self-refection we all went through—and still are.” —Los Angeles Times
“Smith’s slim volume is a balm during an anxious year. We have learned the meaning of essential, and Smith’s prose is correspondingly stripped down. Clear. Precise. Orderly . . . An indispensable snapshot of a time when we were all scrambling to put our thoughts in order. I for one, am thankful to Smith for offering us hers.” —Tracey Baptiste, Washington Post
“A slender and moving compendium . . . [W]hat unites these quietly cerebral vignettes is a pervasive interest in and empathy for the lives of others.” —Matthew Adams, Seattle Times
“One of our finest living writers has already produced what may be the first definitive chronicle of an era she dubs ‘the global humbling.’ In a series of essays both personal and political, Zadie Smith turns her sharp gaze to everything from a bouquet of peonies to the death of George Floyd, with disarming insight into her own shifting perspectives as woman, writer, mother, and citizen of the world. ‘The people sometimes demand change. They almost never demand art,’ she suggests at one point, too modestly; we may not have asked for Intimations, but this slim, resonant collection still feels like a gift.” —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“Intimations is the third and slimmest of [Smith’s] essay collections, at 100 pages, but its psychic heft is substantial. In six essays that feel as intimate as a long walk with an old friend, Smith takes on some of the most pressing issues of our time, including police brutality and economic injustice. The book is grounded in inquiry far more often than in certainty, however, and the collection is one that probes, exploring everything from the relationship between privilege and suffering to the nature of isolation and what it means to be confined with the people we love.” —Ericka Taylor, NPR.org
“[Smith] is a spectacular essayist . . . who has written searchingly about race and culture, identity and place and family. Such issues continue to infuse the present, although their salience is complicated by the ways the virus has eroded collective trust . . . This is the essential job of the essayist: to explore not our innocence but our complicity. I want to say this works because Smith doesn’t take herself too seriously, but that’s not accurate. More to the point, she is willing to expose the tangle of feelings the pandemic has provoked. And this may seem a small thing, but it’s essential: I never doubt her voice on the page.” —David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“Intimations feels less like a precise attempt to document the COVID-19 era than a more abstract meditation on time: who is given it, who has it taken from them, and what its sudden presence or absence can lead to. 'Time is how you spend your love,' Smith wrote in her 2005 novel On Beauty—quoting a poem by her own husband, Nick Laird—and Intimations functions impressively as a document of the mixed blessing of time as well as a searing excoriation of a society that has always apportioned it unevenly.” —Emma Specter, Vogue.com
“These days, I find in [Smith’s] work what I once found in Paley and Baldwin—a clarifying lucidity wedded to big-hearted moral awareness. These virtues shine through her powerful new collection, Intimations: Six Essays, which she began at the onset of the pandemic and finished shortly after Floyd's killing. Although only 100 pages, it made me think more than most books five times that length. There's something worth quoting on virtually every page . . . Smith does more than illuminate what we're going through right now. She offers a model of how to think ourselves through a fraught historical moment without getting hysterical or sanctimonious, without losing our compassion or our appreciation for what's good in other people. She teaches us how to be better at being human.” —John Powers, Fresh Air
“Intimations, [Smith’s] slender new collection (less than 100 pages) of ultra-timely essays (several written in the past few momentous months), showcases her trademark levelheadedness. This cast of mind doesn’t mean that Smith avoids moral stances. In Intimations, she speaks clearly and forcefully about the murder of George Floyd and the legacy of slavery and the systemic sins revealed by Covid-19 . . . But despite these jabs, Smith remains unmistakably noncombative. This spirit appears born not of a fear of confrontation but a genuine perplexity (of a searching, brilliant kind) at the nature of experience and people, including herself. . . . Smith’s gifts as a novelist animate her essays . . . In Zadie Smith’s universe—meaning, for my money, the one we’re all living in—complexity is king.” —John Williams, The New York Times
“Slender, solacing . . . To read Zadie Smith is to recognize how few writers seem to genuinely love human beings the way she does, with such infinite curiosity and attention, even when they are behaving monstrously. Or, for that matter, how few are able to do justice to what, for want of a better term, we’ll call common decency.” —Laura Miller, Slate
“What a treat, then, that Zadie Smith has presented us with this jewel of a book, six essays all written at the beginning of lockdown, each generous, reliably insightful explorations of things like suffering, productivity, and love; all reminders of the kind of art people are capable of, even in the most dire of times.” —Refinery29
“Incisive and insightful . . . Smith is at her perceptive and precise best in this slim but thematically weighty volume of personal and civil reckoning.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“There will be innumerable books to come about life in the pandemic, but Zadie Smith is who we want to read right now . . . This will be essential reading for us now, and when we look back in the years to come.” —Town & Country, Best Books to Read This July
“[Smith] writes with the immediacy of a house on fire, illuminating the tumult we are collectively experiencing . . . A sharply honed, obsidian collection glowing with Smith’s insights and eloquence.” —Booklist
“An incisive collection . . . In just under 100 pages, Smith intimately captures the profundity of our current historical moment. Quietly powerful, deftly crafted essays bear witness to the contagion of suffering.” —Kirkus (starred review)
About the Author
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Later Printing edition (July 28, 2020)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 112 pages
- ISBN-10 : 059329761X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0593297612
- Item Weight : 3.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5 x 0.5 x 6.9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #39,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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These vignettes from a plague year are not meant to be definitive or comprehensive in any way. They’re slices of life under a pandemic; acutely perceived and analyzed experiences. But more than any other characteristic, there is the mark of the real.
Ironically, in an era where we’re bombarded by news about the pandemic we have very few accounts of what living under Covid-19 feels like. While we are shut up in our own homes, Smith is able to give voice to one sojourner’s experience. As readers we crave knowing what others are going through.
She is also able to discuss the curious paradox of an epidemic rendering us inactive with all the energy being devoted to Black Lives Matter. In a concluding essay, she sees the epidemic as the best metaphor for the systemic racism that has infected America throughout its history.
So while these essays may not be classics, they satisfy that hunger for shared suffering, a semblance of community for those who have had to endure everything from mere inconveniences to real tragedy. These essays are bound and deserve to be the literary and commercial success that they already show every sign of becoming.
These essays, like the stories, have bright moments when her art breaks free of the mundanity of her life. But too often one feels that she's writing because she can't not write; they don't reveal the rumination or inspiration necessary to transforming these mundane topics into truths that are universal or insightful. She certainly tries to launch these encounters with random New Yorkers, old family friends, or neighbors into opportunities to uncover significant truths about our peculiar particular moment. But they rarely launch beyond ho-hum and mundane observations that any of us could make about our lives.
I love being stuck reading about the mundanity of Zadie's life--but is that art? No. When one gets down to it, is it really very interesting? Unfortunately not.
It's nice to read that Zadie, Nick, and the kids have the same minor concerns that all the petty bourgeoisie have--like shopping, child rearing, boredom, and navel-gazing. And it's nice to have a great writer give her fandom insights into her personality. But, it's only so satisfying. I'll be happier when she gives us less of an unvarnished view of her life, and another great work.
Top reviews from other countries
‘... conspiracy theories, which I have never considered anything less than an entirely rational mode of processing contemporary American reality.’
From A Character in a Wheelchair in the Vestibule, Intimations by Zadie Smith