Posts Tagged ‘Zadie Smith’



July 18, 2009

This came up when I was wandering in the forest of Visual Bookshelf on Facebook. I get lost in there frequently, the number of books I want to read increasing with every cover or title or summary that catches my eye. This one came up as one of Jonathan Safran Foer’s books (excerpts from his “Everything is Illuminated” book several posts before), and I want to read every word that man has written so I added it to my Want To Read list. On further research of this book, I found that it was a bunch of short stories by different authors all surrounding the concept of “character”. I was fascinated and intrigued by this and happened to remember it during one of my walks to the library. I was glad I didn’t let it fade into some other part of my mind, along with all the other books that will never show themselves long enough for me to catch them. The second excerpt isn’t spectacular, but I took the time to type it up anyway because of the parts that I bolded. Descriptions that just made me smile and shake my head in disbelief at the emotional effect of words.

So The Book of Other People represents real people making fictional people work for real people - a rare example of fictional people pulling their own weight for once. (from the Introduction)

"So The Book of Other People represents real people making fictional people work for real people - a rare example of fictional people pulling their own weight for once." (from the Introduction)

Excerpt #28:
‘What’s wrong with you.’
And Frank couldn’t tell her because he didn’t know and so he just said, ‘I understand why people look at fountains, or at the sea. Because those don’t stop. The water moves and keeps on moving, the tide withdraws and then returns and it keeps on going and keeps on. It’s like – ‘ He could hear her shifting, feel her sitting up, but not reaching for him. ‘It’s like that button you get on stereos, on those little personal players – there’s always the button that lets you repeat – not just the album, but the track, one single track. They’ve anticipated you’ll want to repeat one track, over and over, so those three or four minutes can stay, you can keep that time steady in your head, roll it back, fold it back. They know you’ll want that. I want that. Just three or four minutes that come back.’ (42)
-Frank,  A.L. Kennedy 




Excerpt #29:
          They were at the age when every moment was as incredible as a spacewalk. Leaping from the front step could entertain them for hours, even though the step was identical to every step they’d ever seen in their lives. The stunted San Francisco backyard, though – so much better than Newton’s own precipitous one – could telescope from an ant-kingdom in the grass to an interplanetary realm below the sadly unclimbable eucalyptus trees. But mostly they were so young that they needed nothing more than to run in circles among the trees, slipping now and then on the sickle-shapes leaves, finding new and yet newer hiding places for their tiny bodies among the bushes and the few patio chairs, waiting with a tiny beating frog-heart in the darkness of the woodpile until either the other boy leapt upon him with his own squeal of terror or the game went on too long, with the seeker beginning to cry beneath the scent and the surf-sound of the trees, and the hider jumping up, nearly in tears himself at having been lost for so long. At those times, an adult had to go outside to comfort them. They were for some reason incapable of comforting each other. 
          That was during the day. At night, their bodies still longed to run in circles, and, though it was clearly forbidden, they did it anyway. It was amazing to them that Martin’s mother could sense immediately if they were jumping on his bed; they both stood with wide-eyed looks of wonder as she ran in, clairvoyant perhaps, and scolded them for ruining the bed, telling them to find something else to do. Sometimes there were spankings; if Newton’s own parents weren’t there, Martin’s mother did not pause to spaink him as well. For instance for standing on a stool and reaching into the cookie jar, fearing it was empty, and having the exhilarating sensation of feeling, among the ocean of crumbs, the half-raft of a cookie…before bringing the ceramic jar crashing to the floor. Or for getting into Martin’s mother’s closet and making a mess of things, rooting through her exotic paraphernalia like pirate treasure and tossing long rosy satiny things onto the floor in search of diamond buckles and pearls, which Martin, at the age before a boy knows better, would wear around his own neck. But mostly Martin’s father believed in letting them be wild, and if he were around, they could take the sofa apart and make the most astounding fortress out of it, and even – on the best of all possible days – be allowed to eat dinner inside and watch, through the cracks of the cushions, an hour of blessed television. That was life until thirteen. 
          There are a thousand kinds of thirteen, more than there are kinds of fifty, or eighty. There is Oddly Childlike Thirteen, and Worried and Obsessive, and Alarmingly Manly, and Girlish, and Gothic Horro, and Scapegoat, and Something Happened to Him as a Child, and Beatific and Despised, and Lonely, and Just Plain Stubborn. Therei s manic and there is Depressed, still leading separate lives. There is Loves Adults and there is Steals Dad’s Antique Pornography. There is Steals Everything, Period. There is ALready Smokes and Already Drinks and Already Screws. There is Weeps Alone. And Misses Childhood. And Hates the World. He was none of these;  he was less than these. He was the kind of boy who had been a prodigy at six and faded by seven, the kind who would be handsome by twenty and show his old yearbook photos to girlfriends, unable to feel joy when they’d exclaim how hopeless he used to be. Somewhere in between those points was where he lay, and somehow – and this was the hopelessly sad part – he knew it. If you asked him, on a test sheet, to name his own type of thirteen, he would write in his seismographic hand: ‘Waits for Time to Pass’. (280-281)

-Newton Wicks, Andrew Sean Greer

short stories from The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith 

Please read it when you have the chance!