I like having a collection of essays on the back burner; I picked up Feel Free from Cristopher’s Books months ago to fill that role in a giddy rush of name recognition – Zadie Smith’s debut novel White Teeth (2000) has stuck with me since I read it in college (2010 maybe?). Smith’s novels have not gripped me again – I bounced off NW (2012) a couple of times, just not in the mood – but Smith’s criticism is always a pleasure to read, neatly articulating new webs of art and life with personal feeling and close observation. This book sat on my nightstand for a long time as in between other books I took little sips from the well of these essays.
Some personal favorites include “Windows on the Will: Anomalisa” – reading Charlie Kaufmann’s stop-motion character study against the movie Polar Express and Schopenhauer’s understanding of humans as puppets whose strings are pulled by the will-to-live (whatever that is) – and the review “The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi,” which is both a book review and a revealing account of an early and transformative reading experience of the author’s. I admit I did not read all of the Harpers columns, which I’m sure I would have appreciated individually if I were reading them month to month but did not make for the most exciting contiguous block of reading.