Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Read by Zadie Smith and Doc Brown
Published October 2019 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library
Zadie Smith has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and her inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. Interleaving eleven completely new and unpublished stories with some of her best-loved pieces from The New Yorker and elsewhere, Smith presents a dizzyingly rich and varied collection of fiction. Moving exhilaratingly across genres and perspectives, from the historic to the vividly current to the slyly dystopian, Grand Union is a sharply alert and prescient collection about time and place, identity and rebirth, the persistent legacies that haunt our present selves and the uncanny futures that rush up to meet us.
Nothing is off limits, and everything—when captured by Smith’s brilliant gaze—feels fresh and relevant. Perfectly paced and utterly original, Grand Union highlights the wonders Zadie Smith can do.
I have thoughtfully underlined the bit about this being a short story collection for you because I was clearly not aware of it when I started listening to this book.
And while I would love to say that I pay every bit as much attention to the books I listen to as I do to those I read in print or digitally, let's be honest, I don't. I mean, I'm driving most to the time and I think we'd all prefer that I be paying more attention to the road than the book I'm listening to at the time. But, guys, I was so confused for a good long while as I listened to the book, trying to figure out how all of the bits I was listening to would eventually tie together.
They don't. Which I would have known had I paid any attention to the description of this book. Which I didn't because I just saw a new book by Zadie Smith and requested it from my library. Consider yourself warned and I hope that knowing this going in will help you appreciate this book much more than I did.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's be clear - once I caught on to the fact that this was a book of short stories, I really liked many of the stories. Some of them left me scratching my head (I often wonder if I'm not smart enough to "get" Smith). I suppose the beauty of writing short stories is that it allows writers to try different things, to be a bit more creative. And I will give Smith that, she has written some really unique pieces in this collection. One of my favorite stories was "The Lazy River" which is blurs the line between allegory and reality. Another of my favorites was "Miss Adele Amongst The Corsets." I adored Miss Adele but I was most taken with the idea that we may all be too quick to take offense.
Here are your takeaways:
1. This is not a novel. I repeat, this is NOT a novel.
2. If you're going to listen to this book, pay attention. There are some twisty bits here.
3. While Smith and Brown do a wonderful job reading the book, I would recommend actually reading the book instead of listening to it.
4. Enjoy - even if you do feel like Smith is much too smart a writer for you.