5cense ∀ll over the map of Z.S.'s NW, the count of M.C. + a few other shades of gray


12 June 2020> Weave wanderd up far as Camden a few times, but that's about the xtent of our knowledge of northwest London. That's disclaimer #1. The 2nd disclaimer is that NW is the 1st book by Zadie Smith weave red... perhaps we shd of started w/White Teeth (wich we just got)? The 3rd disclaimer is that we got little patience for long rambling books (granted although it's 400 pgs it seams fluffed out by font size, spacing, etc. (+ the fonts + book design rubbed us wrong, wich doesn't help)) perhaps in part cuz of what Inurnet has done to our brain, but even in our pre-Inurnet youth we struggled, we failed reading Ulysses the 1st few attempts + only later (+ only cuz we wanted to finish our dead brother's book for him, which all hinges on Ulysses) did we decide it was important enough to invest the time + then we did the background research (which is sorta nessysorry for a book like Ulysses) so we cd understand what was going on. Zadie's NW came to us by chance, we found it a book box in our wanderings a few weeks ago + then all this BLM stuff reared it's head amidst a global pandemic + we figured the least we cd do is re-purpose our liebury boox for black books matter + now we're feeling the pressure to keep the boox populated w/ black-authored books so figured we shd read NW so we can put it out in our boox. The opening hook ain't bad + we kept reading to find out how it played out, tho it wasn't exactly easy reading, very Joycean in fact, speaking of Ulysses, but swap Dublin for NW London. Might even go as far as to say it's derivative, that Smith set out to write such a post-modern novel, not cuz it bubbled outta her naturally, but she wanted to do sumping diffrent, to experiment, wich NW definitely does... but does it work? Or is this just experimentation for the sake of experimentation, the type that gives experimental fiction a bad rap? If Z.S. was white (completely) we probly wd of abandoned the book after 50 pages but we kept at it for the sake of black books matter.

Around 100 pages in there's a complete shift, in style + plot, almost like Z.S. had another unfinished manuscript she collaged into this. The initial thread (regarding that crazy Shar woman) seems all but lost + we kept expecting it to resurfizz but instead all sorts of new threads bifurcate + fizzle + honestly becomes a bit soap opery + chick-litty for our tastes (long passages about vibrators + the physiology of women's errogenuous zones + when she dives back into their childhoods reminded us a bit of Elena Ferrante). Guess we sorta gave a shit about that Felix guy, but the others we didn't really care what happened to them (tho could relate to Leah not wanting to have kids). Nevertheless, we persevered... by page 200 another shift takes place... as if Z.S. had 4 diffrent 100 page novels she hodge-podged into 1, wich is all fine + dandy—we dig connected short story collections—but they got to be tethered togethered creatively, wich din't seam like these were. Either that, or the landguage has to be stellar, but it's O.K.... most of it told in that omnipresent all-over-the-map fragmented patois that works for Joyce, but Z.S. seams into it over her own head.

A for effort tho. At sum point (as a reader) it becomes an investment issue... we'd invest in reading a 100 page book by Zadie Smith, but now we was committed to this 400 page epic novel. It's like when u start watching a series + the opening episode or 2 has u hooked but then they just stretch things, leading u on to keep watching (wich seems the norm these days) + at sum point u look at how many episodes u got left + aks yourself wether u want to watch 12 x ½-hour episodes, or is yr time better spent watching 3 other movies? So yah, honestly our intrest waned ½-way thru + we started flipping faster just to get to the end, wich was a bit of a disappointment, din't feel the connections were really resolved (granted we was skimming so maybe we missed sumping), not that everything always has to get rapped up neat + tidy (cuz face it, life's never like that), but there has to be sum sorta payoff for sticking it out. It'd be easier to just say "we liked it," wich is what most people do (especially liberal white folks)... question is, by not being critical of marginalized writers do we marginalize + homogenize our own personal tastes? Don't get us wrong, we think the general population needs to read the likes of Zadie Smith + decide for themselves, that's why we're putting NW in our boox. And maybe we'll give White Teeth a shot. But NW just wasn't really our cup of tea.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is another book we got for our liebury box in honor of black books matter + we thought we might try to read it until we saw how thick it was! Speaking of investment, take NW + multiply x 3 (1200 pgs + fine print)... fuck that, we ain't even gonna crack the spine. Them was diffrent times back then (1840s), before TV, when folks wanted long novels to pass the time. The Count of Monte Cristo was actually cerealized 1st in sum newspaper. And not sure his blackness worked for or against Dumas in those days (in France). Although Alexandre is technically only ¼ black, it's intresting to note that 'Dumas' is the surname of his grandmother (a Haitian slave) that his ½-black father chose to take rather then the name of his (white) father, wearing it like a badge of honor (or chip on his shoulder)(unlike the Natalie character in Zadie Smith's aforementioned NW who changes her name from Keisha in order to fit in in a white world)(Zadie herself changed her name from Sadie, tho she still retains her white father's surname (Smith) rather than her Jamaican mother's (Bailey). Oh, the intricacies of race, nothing's ever black or white.

13 June> And here's a few more going into our liebury boox:

  • Middle Passages by Kamau Brathwaite is a book we engaged with before we even started 5cense, along w/ Brathwaite's Born to Slow Horses, but we're not parting w/ that cuz Wesleyan press gave it to us + copies are hard to come by now
  • The Beautyful Ones are not Born Yet by Ayi Kwei Armah—read this on a plane to Ethiopia in 2007
  • Dream Machine by Sade Murphy—read this in Seattle in 2015
756 <(current)> 758> Buck Studies biking along Utah + Nebraska Aves NW
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