cover image Intimations: Six Essays

Intimations: Six Essays

Zadie Smith. Penguin, $10.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-593-29761-2

In this incisive and insightful collection, Smith (Grand Union) ruminates on the pandemic, racial injustice, and the writer’s role in a time of social upheaval. The collection begins with “Peonies,” in which a memory of admiring flowers in a community garden sparks reflections on the female body. In “The American Experience,” Smith blasts Donald Trump’s pandemic response and considers how the crisis has undermined ideas of American exceptionalism. “Something to Do,” the most substantial piece, reflects on doing creative work during quarantine and how her own life of “executing self-conceived schedules: teaching day, reading day, writing day, repeat” was upended by having family at home. In “Screengrabs,” she briefly profiles familiar faces around her neighborhood, including a man Smith fans will recognize from a story in her Grand Union collection and a woman who is the “ideal city dweller” and cultivates “community without overly sentimentalizing the concept.” In a postscript to this essay, Smith skillfully demonstrates how the pandemic and police brutality constitute two sides of the same coin for Black Americans. Smith is at her perceptive and precise best in this slim but thematically weighty volume of personal and civil reckoning. (July)