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addabook - Swing Time
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Swing Time
A Novel
Zadie Smith
read on September 20, 2018

I may not be experienced enough in reading fiction, but this one didn't do it for me. Not that I necessarily disliked anything here -- I thought it was a well written book, and sometimes quite engaging -- but I really have no takeaways. Nothing really moved me, I don't feel particularly more empathetic of the biracial experience, or with income inequality issues, or with any of the topics that are Smith seems to graze by but never really attack head on. I'm genuine in my first sentence up there. I've read other reviews of this book, and they are overwhelmingly effusive.  I've seen this book on many 'best-of' lists, or editor's picks, etc, and I just don't get it. In The Guardian, Tayei Selasi says of this book: "Swing Time has brilliant things to say about race, class, and gender, but its most poignant comment is perhaps this. Given who we are, who we are told that we are not, and who we imagine we might become, how do we find our way home?" See, now that does sound like a good book. But I just didn't get any of it. Maybe I'm too dense, or maybe I was too sleepy reading this before bed, but the whole thing came off very forgettable.

Some quotes that I did like...

Whenever I spotted him in my reluctant daily walk around the village ... Fern would be locked in an intense discussion with men and women of every age and circumstance, crouching by them as they ate, jogging next to the donkey-drawn carts, always listening, learning, asking for more details, assuming nothing until he was told it. I compared all of this to my own way of being. Keeping to my dank room as much as possible, talking to no one if I could help it, reading books about the region by the light of a head-torch, and feeling a homicidal fury, adolescent in nature, towards the IMF and the World Bank, the Dutch who'd bought the slaves, the local chiefs who'd sold them, and the many other distant mental abstractions to which I could do no practical damage.


"So, you see, a lot of money will be saved there, for sure," she said, and folded her hands in her lap to formally mark the end of this thought, and I did not contest her. But I could see she wanted to talk, that her pat phrases were like lids dancing on top of bubbling cooking pots, and all I had to do was sit patiently and wait for her to boil over.

Author Bio:

Zadie Smith (born 25 October 1975) is a contemporary British novelist, essayist, and short-story writer. Her debut novel, White Teeth (2000), immediately became a best-seller and won a number of awards. Her most recent book is Feel Free (2018). She has been a tenured professor in the Creative Writing faculty of New York University since September 2010.