"I'm not trying to convince someone of an argument one way or another, generally," author Zadie Smith told cultural critic Wesley Morris, before a packed crowd in Brooklyn's St. Ann & The Holy Trinity Church on Wednesday night. "But I am trying to model a way of thinking."
She was referring, of course, to the essays that comprise her new collection, Feel Free — a title she admits she stole from a poem written by her husband, Nick Laird. In her essays about Jay-Z and Joni Mitchell, J.G. Ballard and Justin Bieber, libraries and Facebook, Smith traverses through many states of reflection. She rarely concludes the essays neatly — life is too complicated, and circumstances change too often and too quickly for that — but the journey through her various states of deliberation is the true joy of the collection. Indeed, in the foreword to the book, Smith admits that writing this collection — and her books — is a matter of finding balance between three essential things: "Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two."