Namara Smith

All articles by this author

Both Sides Now

Both Sides Now

On Zadie Smith

Swing Time is the first of Smith’s books to abandon the omniscient third person and restrict itself to a single first-person narrator, a shift that has a seismic effect on the novel. As in Smith’s previous novels, the narrator is responsible for harmonizing a multiplicity of disparate voices and positions. But by assigning this mediating function to a flesh-and-blood character, Swing Time presents it in a new light. Rather than an all-seeing eye, the narrator is now a fallible individual with a necessarily limited perspective. The opposing voices she holds in suspension are no longer abstract — instead, they are attached to specific people, namely her estranged parents. The insistence on seeing both sides, previously a transcendent principle in Smith’s work, here looks more like the survival mechanism of a child of divorce trying to reconcile her parents’ competing claims on her affection.

Sweet Forgiveness

Sweet Forgiveness

All screwball comedies are, to some degree, female revenge movies.

Charles, however, has no aptitude for cards, can’t tell the difference between beer and ale, and seems never to have talked to a woman before. As he sits alone at dinner in his spotless white tuxedo reading a book called Are Snakes Necessary?, he is both ridiculous and a blank slate, an unexplored continent—an Adam to her Eve.

Revoltingly Edible

Revoltingly Edible

On Hilary Mantel

Here are some of the words in Mantel’s Cromwell novels: Guiles, argent, couchant. Estoc. Exsanguinates. Fuckeur. There is hunting; there is jousting. There are sconces, velvet cushions, jellies in the shape of castles, and stuffed piglets. There are songs that can only be described as bawdy.

Tarnac, General Store

Tarnac, General Store

Anarchist farmers vs. Inspector Clouseau

The offices themselves were in perfect opposition to Alain Bauer’s clean-cut image. They were small and untidy, cluttered with crates of books and disordered folders. Every inch of the walls was covered in letters of mission, distinctions, diplomas, and, finally, a photo of Bauer and Nicolas Sarkozy, then minister of the interior. Sarkozy appears as small and nervous as Bauer does strong and cold. The snapshot had the best spot in the office, the most valuable location, where the whole team could admire it several times a day: above the photocopier.