After our ride home, and getting my own wiggles and stretches out, the first place I took this body of mine is to my local bookstore. With nothing particular in mind, but possibly a conversation or two on the heart, I was met with Zadie’s Smith’s new book, Intimations. Have you had the chance to read it?
In it, Zadie is soft and vulnerable and the essays themselves are woven through personal experiences. It was written at the height of the pandemic, in which Zadie playfully describes on a recent episode of Call Your Girlfriend, “as a symptom” to it. This simplistic description of why some writers write during crisis (out of or beacuse of, an inability to do much else, or to “get through it” without) resonated with me. Maybe that’s what makes it refreshing and jarring at once. Zadie speaks via a clear tube of self-consciousness and discomfort.
The people who are like characters in a larger world in which Zadie is simply just a member of (not a world-renowned writer) take center. Their experiences (though not as if Zadie can self-place) are in that middle stage too. But towards the end, the people tend to warp into a monstrous one; the virus, presidents, the innocent killing of Black bodies by cops and people, and yes ultimately, racism. Zadie squares in… points the finger, back to the ships, back to false narratives that this went away and that went away, “In theory. In practice, they pass like a virus through churches and schools, adverts and movies, books and political parties, courtrooms and the prison-industrial complex and, of course, police departments. Like a virus, they work invisibly within your body until you grow sick with them. I truly believe that many people are unaware that they carry the virus at all until the very moment you find yourself phoning the cops to explain the race of the man you thought looked suspicious walking through his own neighborhood, or who spoke back to. you in Central Park, or whatever the fuck it is.”
Where I Read It:
This book is quite small in size and fits right into my purse and was ingested within a day. For anyone who has a bit more time on their hands for one day, you’ll have no problem devouring it during a beautiful afternoon under the sun.
Stand Out Quote:
“I used to think that there would one day be a vaccine: that if enough Black people named the virus, explained it, demostrated how it operates, videoed its effects, protested it peacefully, revealed how widespread it really is, ow the symptoms arise, how so many Americans keep giving it to each other, irresponsibly and shamefull, generation after generation, causing intolerable and unending damage bot to individual bodies and to the body politic—I thought if that knowledge became as widespread as could possibly be managed or imagines that we might finally reach some kind of herd immunity. I don’t think that anymore.”
In My Eyes:
This is the most political piece of work Zadie has written (IMO) without it being explicitly political. And it is no surprise that the royalties of this book will be given to charities. The charities for the edition that is currently on stands will be divided between The Equal Justice Initiative and The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for New York.
Yes. It is strange, and maybe even comforting to read something from this specific moment in time. Even from a perspective that is unlike my own. When reading the A Woman essay, there was a deep part of me that felt pained. It was the kind of fresh Covid-19 virus pain that New York City people who have stayed, may feel. In it (and the essay before it), Zadie is packing up to leave the city, to somewhere safe.. a place I can’t even pronouce, while her neighbor and her funny dog are declaring their desire to stay and care for one another, “Thing is, we’re a community, and we got each other’s back. You’ll be there for me, and I’ll be there for you, and we’ll be there for each other, the whole building. Noting to be afraid of—we’ll get through this, all of us, together.”
I’m happy she found a safe place to land, and eventually, decided she just needed to be home (she later realized London was the place that felt the most like home) and in that exit, was able to deliver to us this book.
Have you read this book? Any plans to?