Top critical review
timely but far from timeless
Reviewed in the United States on August 4, 2020
I'm a devoted Zadie fan, but having just finished this small collection of essays and "Grand Union," her most recent collection of stories, I'm thinking that Zadie's in a bit of a mid-career slump--unfortunately. I mention "Union" because she ties a couple of essays to stories in that collection. To this reader, both collections rely too much on her life, but unlike her earlier work, her genius doesn't transform her life into bigger, deeper, and more universal insights.
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.