Now More Than Ever by Zadie Smith, 2018
The magic trick:
Dispensing with plot structure
Z is for Zadie.
Another Zadie Smith short story that feels more like an essay. She’s dealing with the perils of the modern world, but things move so fast in our culture these days that her commentary already feels out of date. For instance, we get references to “IRL” and other things that nobody says anymore. Its anachronisms inadvertently make a better comment about the culture than the story itself does. Still, there are worse things to do than spend 20 minutes with Zadie Smith’s writer’s voice.
She’s free and loose here. Tied down to almost no plot constrictions or other structural devices, she bounces between the satire of a friend named Scout providing cultural lessons to a kind of a free-form exploration of a Montgomery Clift movie to an interaction between the narrator and a high school student/critic.
It’s not my favorite story, but the free-flowing nature of the story feels fresh and alive at least. And that’s quite a trick on Smith’s part.
There is an urge to be good. To be seen to be good. To be seen. Also to be. Badness, invisibility, things as they are in reality as opposed to things as they seem, death itself – these are out of fashion. This is basically what I told Mary. I said, Mary, all these things I just mentioned are not really done anymore, and also, while we’re on the subject, that name of yours is not going to fly, nobody’s called Mary these days, it’s painful for me even to say your name – actually, could you get the hell out of here?
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