The New Essay by Zadie Smith

1 03 2018

Zadie Smith’s brilliance is on display in ‘Feel Free’

Upon opening “Feel Free,” Zadie Smith’s new essay collection, you’ll be surprised to learn that she doubts her literary talent, her critical acumen. I suppose that many literary writers are skeptical or anxious about their chosen profession. I know I am: though some invisible force compels us to create, we writers sometimes feel ourselves fraudulent intellectually, not knowing enough about anything to represent human experience or critique the arts successfully. Smith ought not be one of those writers though. Since 2000, Smith — London born and bred, now a New Yorker — has published six substantial, exceptional works of fiction (including the 2012 novel “NW,” a tour de force formally and stylistically) and an excellent work of nonfiction, “Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays” (2009).

Across her eighth book’s five parts — “In the World,” “In the Audience,” “In the Gallery,” “On the Bookshelf,” “Feel Free” — Smith has distributed a slew of essays, reviews (including a folio of “Harper’s” columns) and lectures written from 2009-17. Over the course of 435 pages, she covers Brexit and the waning British state; climate change; David Fincher, Facebook and internet 2.0; Billie Holiday; Joni Mitchell; Key & Peele; Schopenhauer, Charlie Kaufman and stop-motion animation; black beauty, black sorrow, oil painting and a horror movie about white liberals; the vagaries of lower-middle-class British life in the 1980s and ’90s; literary fiction and the discontinuous self; Justin Bieber, Jay-Z and joy.

Smith’s continuous stream of productivity, her topical range, the accolades laureling her books, her prodigious artistic abilities, should be evidence enough to assuage her fears about credibility. And yet, as Smith explains in the new collection’s foreword, her anxiety arises from believing she has “no real qualifications” to write as she does. “Not a philosopher or sociologist, not a real professor of literature or film, not a political scientist, professional music critic or trained journalist,” Smith thinks that her essays rest shakily on evidence that is “almost always intimate. I feel this — do you? I’m struck by this thought — are you?” She worries that her writing has “not a leg to stand on” because it’s born from “affective experience” and not argument. “All [the essays] have is their freedom. And the reader is likewise unusually free, because I have absolutely nothing over her, no authority.”

Read further @ LA Times

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Writing the First Pages

3 11 2012

3 Essential Elements Of A Book’s First Page

If you’re a writer with publishing goals, then you know how important it is that the literary agents or editors reading your material keep reading. After all, if your submission doesn’t hook the reader right away, there are plenty of other submissions to take its place. With that in mind, we’ve outlined three major elements that make or break a piece in the first few pages so that you can make sure you’re submitting the best short story, essay, or book query possible.

1. Character
Any character you present in the opening pages of your essay, short story, or book manuscript should be intriguing. Don’t waste any time; show the reader quickly why it’s worth getting to know the character.

2. Opening Action
To quickly hook your reader, focus in on an intense and important moment. This doesn’t have to be a flashy, shocking scene—and shouldn’t be unless truly appropriate.

3. Setting
Choosing a unique, unexpected, extraordinary setting will give you the automatic bonus of a higher interest factor in your opening pages.

Continue reading @ Huffington Post Books