‘Feel Free’ is a new collection of over thirty essays, reviews and interviews by Zadie Smith divided into five sections. The first and last of these, ‘In the World’ and ‘Feel Free’, cover current events and some autobiographical “life writing”, while ‘In the Audience’, ‘In the Gallery’ and ‘On the Bookshelf’ concern her musings on film, art and writing respectively.
Covering a vast array of topics, the collection opens with an impassioned defence of libraries (“the only thing left on the high street that doesn’t want either your soul or your wallet”) while a new security fence constructed around her daughter’s primary school is the springboard for a nuanced and insightful piece on Brexit. As to be expected, some of the more in-depth reviews may only be of real interest for those who already know about the subject matter. I am familiar with some of the films and authors discussed here (‘The Social Network’, ‘Get Out’ and Karl Ove Knausgaard are all featured), but it has to be said that the more academic essays about art were less appealing to me and I skimmed most of these. As well as subject matter, the essays were originally written for very different audiences across different publications and while many pieces first appeared in the New York Review of Books and Harper’s magazine, some were delivered as lectures. Continue reading
There are many reasons why authors may choose to publish their work anonymously or pseudonymously. Historically, this has primarily been due to the threat of persecution or prosecution if the material produced was controversial and/or illegal. More recently, however, it has often stemmed from the author’s desire to simply let the words speak for themselves. Continue reading
I have been reading ‘In Other Words’ by Jhumpa Lahiri for Women in Translation Month hosted by Biblibio for the third year running. I enjoyed Lahiri’s short stories and novels which mostly focus on themes based around the experience of Bengali immigrants living on the east coast of the United States so I was intrigued that she had recently written a non-fiction book in Italian about her experiences of learning the language with Ann Goldstein’s translation into English on the opposite page.
‘The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story’ by Martin Edwards investigates the mysterious Detection Club of famous crime writers including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, Margery Allingham amongst others. While many of the works by these authors have been dismissed by some as “cosy” crime stories compared to the more graphically violent offerings today, Edwards reveals that this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth as he investigates the stories behind the authors, their books and the curious social network that linked them together.
Earlier this week, it was announced that ‘Girl Online’ by Zoe Sugg also known as YouTube vlogger Zoella, was the fastest selling debut novel of all time having shifted 78,109 copies in its first week of sales in the UK. However, in an article published in The Telegraph today, Penguin Random House confirmed to The Sunday Times that “to be factually accurate you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own”.
‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’ by Stephen King is part-autobiography, part advice manual for aspiring authors. The first part of ‘On Writing’ is a personal and often very witty memoir as King recalls his journey towards becoming a published author. The second part explores what King calls the ‘writer’s toolbox’, including tips on vocabulary, grammar, elements of style and editing. The final part is where King describes the car accident in 1999 which nearly killed him halfway through writing this very book and the long recovery process afterwards. There is also a very interesting reading list at the end (along with a second one if you read the 10th anniversary edition as I did). It sounds like a slightly haphazard structure but it works because the subject of writing is always at the heart of it. Continue reading