Cover image for Feel free : essays
Feel free : essays
Smith, Zadie, author.
Personal Author:
Physical Description:
452 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Pt. 1. In the world. Northwest London blues -- Elegy for a country's seasons -- Fences: a Brexit diary -- On optimism and despair -- pt. 2. In the audience. Generation why? -- The house that Hova built -- Brother from another mother -- Some notes on attunement -- Windows on the will: Anomalisa -- Dance lessons for writers -- pt. 3. In the gallery. Killing Orson Welles at midnight -- Flaming June -- "Crazy they call me": on looking at Jerry Dantzic's photos of Billie Holiday -- Alte Frau by Balthasar Denner -- Mark Bradford's Niagara -- A bird of few words: narrative mysteries in the paintings of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye -- The tattered ruins of the map: on Sarah Sze's Centrifuge -- Getting in and out -- pt. 4. On the bookshelf. Crash by J.G. Ballard -- The Buddha of suburbia by Hanif Kureishi -- Notes on NW -- The Harper's columns -- The I who is not me -- pt. 5. Feel free. Life-writing -- The bathroom -- Man versus corpse -- Meet Justin Bieber! -- Love in the gardens -- The shadow of ideas -- Find your beach -- Joy.
"Arranged into five sections--In the World, In the Audience, In theGallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free--this new collection [of essays] poses questions we immediately recognize ... Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, 'Joy,' and, 'Find Your Beach,' [this collection] offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive--and never any less than perfect company"


Call Number
Material Type
Corning - Southeast Steuben County Library 1 824.914 SMI Adult NonFiction Book
Elmira - Steele Memorial Library 1 824.914 SMI Adult NonFiction Book

On Order



A New York Times Notable Book

From Zadie Smith, one of the most beloved authors of her generation, a new collection of essays

Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world's preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right.

Arranged into five sections--In the World, In the Audience, In the Gallery, On the Bookshelf, and Feel Free--this new collection poses questions we immediately recognize. What is The Social Network--and Facebook itself--really about? "It's a cruel portrait of us: 500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore." Why do we love libraries? "Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay." What will we tell our granddaughters about our collective failure to address global warming? "So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we'd just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes--and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat."

Gathering in one place for the first time previously unpublished work, as well as already classic essays, such as, "Joy," and, "Find Your Beach," Feel Free offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith's own life. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive--and never any less than perfect company. This is literary journalism at its zenith.

Author Notes

Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth , The Autograph Man , On Beauty , NW and Swing Time , as well as a novella, The Embassy of Cambodia , and a collection of essays, Changing My Mind . She is also the editor of The Book of Other People . Zadie was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta's 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. White Teeth won multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. On Beauty was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and NW was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. Zadie Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Smith introduces her second essay collection, following Changing My Mind (2009), by noting that the pieces gathered here were written during the Obama presidency, a bygone world. Most were first published in the New York Review of Books or the New Yorker, and all are candidly personal, socially attuned, witty, rueful, intellectually radiant, and seductively anecdotal. An incisive case for supporting public libraries is followed by an intimate look at what is being lost in climate change. Smith assesses the shock of Brexit, parses the zeitgeist of Generation Facebook, and dissects the conundrums of being biracial, experiences that inform her profile of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Her musings on autobiographical fiction include keen readings of Philip Roth and Karl Ove Knausgård, while, on the art front, she considers the work of sculptor Sarah Sze. A confessional about Joni Mitchell is followed by a highly improbable and enjoyably fruitful pairing of Justin Bieber and philosopher Martin Buber, while reflections on dance shed light on her novel, Swing Time (2016). Smith's astute, gracefully delving inquiries remind us that freedom must be cultivated and defended.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2018 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

British actress Amuka-Bird channels both the public persona and literary essence of novelist and essayist Smith in giving voice to this sprawling collection of nonfiction works. The essays vary in topic and include criticism of visual and literary arts, musings on pop culture, and incisive takes on current politics on both sides of the Atlantic; Amuka-Bird handles the sometimes swift transitions gracefully. She adds an especially evocative touch in her reading of Smith's works that tackle racial and cultural identity. For Smith's experimental piece on the tortured life of music legend Billie Holiday, which is written from the first-person perspective of Holiday, Amuka-Bird provides a chilling rendition of the singer's bluesy, conversational cadence. When Smith recounts recent interviews with entertainers such as rapper Jay-Z and comedian and director Jordan Peele, Amuka-Bird doesn't shy away from adding biting edges to their voices. Not every piece of this stylistically wide-ranging collection translates easily into the audio format, but Amuka-Bird's talent cannot be denied. A Penguin hardcover. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Smith, primarily known as a fiction writer (Swing Time, NW, etc.), has added a dazzling second collection (after Changing My Mind) of nonfiction to her already impressive accomplishments. Beginning with essays on the value of public libraries in the digital age, Smith offers penetrating commentary on such subjects as Brexit, Facebook, and climate change, in pieces drawn mainly from those previously published in The New Yorker and New York Review of Books. Venturing into pop culture, she explores the dance styles of Michael Jackson and Madonna alongside those of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly-a bold but intriguing comparison. Smith's most compelling essays feature art and literary criticism. In an extensive analysis of British-Ghanaian painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, the author compares the painter's ability to provoke a narrative to that of the novelist. Works of writers, such as J.G. Ballard and Hanif Kureishi, are treated as refreshing departures from the traditional canon. VERDICT While Smith's personal approach to essay writing may not please everyone, it successfully analyses art and life through the prospective of the novelist. Fans of Smith's writing, as well as readers of thoughtful nonfiction, will enjoy this book. [See Prepub Alert, 8/14/17.]-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Brother from Another Mother The wigs on Key & Peele are the hardest-working hairpieces in show business. Individually made, using pots of hair clearly labeled-- "Short Black/Brown, Human," "Long Black, Human"--they are destined for the heads of a dazzling array of characters: old white sportscasters and young Arab gym posers; rival Albanian/ Macedonian restaurateurs; a couple of trash-talking, church-going, African-American ladies; and the President of the United States, to name a few. Between them, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele play all these people, and more, on their hit Comedy Central sketch show, now in its fourth season. (They are also the show's main writers and executive producers.) They eschew the haphazard whatever's-in-the-costume-box approach--enshrined by Monty Python and still operating on Saturday Night Live ( SNL )--in favor of a sleek, cinematic style. There are no fudged lines, crimes against drag, wobbling sets, or corpsing. False mustaches do not hang limply: a strain of yak hair lends them body and shape. Editing is a three-month process, if not longer. Subjects are satirized by way of precise imitation--you laugh harder because it looks like the real thing. On one occasion, a black actress, a guest star on the show, followed Key into his trailer, convinced that his wig was his actual hair. (Key--to steal a phrase from Nabokov--is "ideally bald.") "And she wouldn't leave until she saw me take my hair off, because she thought that I and all the other guest stars were fucking with her," he recalled. "She 's, like, 'Man, that is your hair. That's your hair. You got it done in the back like your mama would do.' I said, 'I promise you this is glued to my head.' And she was squealing with delight. She was going, 'Oh! This is crazy! This is crazy!' She just couldn't believe it." Call it method comedy. The two men are physically incongruous. Key is tall, light brown, dashingly high-cheekboned and LA fit; Peele is shorter, darker, more rounded, cute like a teddy bear. Peele, who is thirty-five, wears a nineties slacker uniform of sneakers, hoodie and hipster specs. Key is fond of sharply cut jackets and shiny shirts--like an ad exec on casual Friday--and looks forty-three the way Will Smith looked forty-three, which is not much. Before he even gets near hair and makeup, Key can play black, Latino, South Asian, Native American, Arab, even Italian. He is biracial, the son of a white mother and a black father, as is Peele. But though Peele 's phenotype is less obviously malleable--you might not guess that he 's biracial at all-- he is so convincing in voice and gesture that he makes you see what isn't really there. His Obama impersonation is uncanny, and it's the voice and hands, rather than the makeup lightening his skin, that allow you to forget that he looks nothing like the president. One of his most successful creations--a nightmarish, overly entitled young woman called Meegan--is an especially startling transformation: played in his own dark-brown skin, she somehow still reads as a white girl from the Jersey Shore. Between chameleonic turns, the two men appear as themselves, casually introducing their sketches or riffing on them with a cozy intimacy, as if recommending a video on YouTube, where they are wildly popular. A sketch show may seem a somewhat antique format, but it turns out that its traditional pleasures--three-minute scenes, meme-like catchphrases--dovetail neatly with online tastes. Averaging 2 million on-air viewers, Key and Peele have a huge second life online, where their visually polished, byte-size, self- contained skits--easily extracted from each twenty-two-minute episode--rack up views in the many millions. Given these numbers, it's striking how little online animus they inspire, despite their aim to make fun of everyone--men and women, all sexualities, any subculture, race or nation--in repeated acts of equal-opportunity offending. They don't attract anything approaching the kind of critique a sitcom like Girls seems to generate just by existing. What they get, Peele conceded, as if it were a little embarrassing, is "a lot of love." Partly, this is the license we tend to lend to (male) clowns, but it may also be a consequence of the antic freedom inherent in sketch, which, unlike sitcom, can present many different worlds simultaneously. This creative liberty took on a physical aspect one warm LA morning in mid-November, as Key and Peele requisitioned half a suburban street in order to film two sketches in neighboring ranch houses: a domestic scene between Meegan and her lunkhead boyfriend, Andre (played by Key), and a genre spoof of the old Sidney Poitier classic Guess Who's Coming to Dinner . "One of our bits makes you laugh? We have you, and you will back us up," Peele suggested, during a break in filming. "And, if something offends you, you will excuse it." Sitting at a trestle table in the overgrown back garden of "Meegan's Home," he was in drag, scarfing down lunch with the cast and crew, and yet--for a man wearing a full face of makeup and false eyelashes--he seemed almost anonymous among them, speaking in a whisper and gesturing not at all. On set, Peele is notably introverted, as mild and reasonable in person as he tends toward extremity when in character. Looking down at his cleavage, he murmured, "You often hear comments, as a black man, that there 's something emasculating about putting on a dress. It may be technically true, but I've found it so fun. It's not a downgrade in any way." When Key sat down beside Peele, he, too, seemed an unlikely shock merchant, although for the opposite reason. Outgoing, exhaustingly personable, he engages frenetically with everyone: discussing fantasy football with a cameraman, rhapsodizing about the play An Octoroon with his PR person and ardently agreeing with his comedy partner about the curious demise of the short-lived TV show Freaks and Geeks ("ahead of its time"), the present sociohistorical triumph of nerd culture, and a core comic principle underpinning many of their sketches. ("It's what we call 'peas in a pod': two characters who feel just as passionate about the same thing.") Excerpted from Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. xi
Part I In the Worldp. 1
Northwest London Bluesp. 3
Elegy for a Country's Seasonsp. 14
Fenes: A Brexit Diaryp. 20
On Optimism and Despairp. 35
Part II In the Audiencep. 43
Generation Why?p. 45
The House That Hova Builtp. 64
Brother from Another Motherp. 74
Some Notes on Attunementp. 100
Windows on the Will: Anomalisap. 117
Dance Lessons for Writersp. 136
Part III In the Galleryp. 149
Killing Orson Welles at Midnightp. 151
Flaming Junep. 160
"Crazy They Call Me": On Looking at Jerry Dantzic's Photos of Billie Holidayp. 164
Alte Frau by Balthasar Dennerp. 173
Mark Bradford's Niagarap. 181
A Bird of Few Words: Narrative Mysteries in the Paintings of Lynette Yiadom-Boakyep. 187
The Tattered Ruins of the Map: On Sarah Sze's Centrifugep. 201
Getting In and Outp. 212
Part IV On the Bookshelfp. 225
Crash by J. G. Ballardp. 227
The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureiship. 236
Notes on NWp. 248
The Harper's Columnsp. 251
The I Who Is Not Mep. 333
Part V Feel Freep. 349
Life-Writingp. 351
The Bathroomp. 354
Man Versus Corpsep. 366
Meet Justin Bieber!p. 381
Love in the Gardensp. 394
The Shadow of Ideasp. 406
Find Your Beachp. 420
Joyp. 427
Afterwordp. 436
Picture Creditsp. 437
Acknowledgmentsp. 438
Indexp. 445

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