8 Books We Couldn’t Put Down This Month

“You can’t read a book,” writes Vladimir Nabokov – and probably once said aloud – in his collection Lectures on literature, “You can only read about it. A good reader, a great reader, an active and creative reader is a re-reader.” ZadieSmith quotes this Nabokovian truism in her essay on this author and Barthes, which appears in her own 2009 collection, change my mind. This month’s swing time Reading for me was just that – reading again. The book begins with the narrator, a young woman hiding in a “temporary rented flat” in London’s St. John’s Wood. She was fired from her job, for reasons still unknown to the reader; paparazzi were posted in front of her building, she receives an email with the subject “WHORE”. The novel then goes back to the narrator’s early formative friendship with a girl named Tracey. As a seven-year-old in 1982, “We noticed each other’s similarities and differences, like girls do, for obvious reasons. Our shade of brown was exactly the same.” A thread running through the novel continues to explore the similarities and differences between Tracey and the narrator: They are both children of a white parent and a black parent, although Tracey’s father is Jamaican, while the The narrator’s mother is Jamaican. The narrator’s mother is intellectual and political; It’s not Tracey’s. Tracey is a gifted dancer and although the narrator loves to dance, her talent lies in her voice. As the girls grow up and separate, the narration takes on the narrator’s young adult life and the job that more or less led her to support Aimee, a megawatt pop star, white and Australian, who decides to open a girls’ school in West Africa set up, connected country Togo. The book sweeps through time and space as the dual timelines head towards their respective troubling secrets – why was the narrator fired? which finally splintered the relationship between Tracey and the Narrator – but draws a laser focus on small temporal moments that swell with meaning and impact: the harassment Tracey saves the Narrator from in elementary school; the one the narrator fails to save Tracey from or even acknowledge when the couple are in their late teens; the narrator’s attempt to prove something to a teacher in Togo that turns into a humiliation. swing time is of Smith’s novels the one that reminds me most of her essays, perhaps for its preoccupation with time, its revelry and analysis of the performances of real-life dancers (Fred Astaire, Jeni Le Gon), and perhaps for its first-person narrator. When I reread the novel, six years after I first picked it up, I experienced a similar accordioning of time to the structure of the novel; a confrontation with what I missed the first time, new insights that have come from living longer and reading more. I recommend this one today and again in five years, fifteen.

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