Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith’s intellect has never been in doubt—in her novels she’s illustrated mastery of both sprawling, postmodern macro-fiction with White Teeth and the European lyrical realism of her forefathers with On Beauty. Her writing has played with tradition and pop culture, touched on topics as disparate as sectarian religious movements, bio-ethics, academic linguistics and modern hip-hop music. It is clear she loves books and language, thinks deeply and makes a convincing case that philosophy has its place in contemporary culture. It is a privilege to have access to her erudition in her first collection of nonfiction essays, where her wide-ranging interests are given her ever-playful critical eye. While the essays range from Joan Didion-esque reportage on Hollywood awards ceremonies to a moving consideration of the late David Foster Wallace’s writing, they come together thematically under the rubric of her title, Changing My Mind, stating that ideological inconsistency is for her “practically an article of faith.” Her humility notwithstanding, what emerges from Smith’s varied considerations is a consistently charming take on an increasingly crowded world, where reading critically remains a sharp tool to access our common humanity.