The brief description added on the Literary Review Calendar of ‘books to look forward to’ for October 2019 said:
‘Her first short story collection brings together ten new pieces and ten written over the past two decades’.
Reviews of White Teeth pointed out her talent as a writer, the humour of her stories, her crafted characters and the freedom in-between the words, from doubt either in the story or its crafting. I didn’t get it. When the hype around it began, I was thrilled and greedy to read it, but I found the book to be confusing with so much detail about so many things I found myself forgetting what the story was actually about. Even now, writing this, I had to go back to the cover blurb to remind me. At the time, no doubt drawing on my insecurities, I decided it was me – that I was not literary/learned enough to appreciate it. Her subsequent works (and she has an impressive output) have been very positively received also – including nomination for important literary prizes.
Certainly, Zadie Smith can put words together, so her text reads like lyrics and invoke rippling movement. Her ideas (so many ideas in Grand Union!) are bountiful and wide and a little bit mind-blowing in their breadth.
So many critics and reviewers rave with such bounty about her fabulousness I want to experience their joy, but I found the terrain of this book difficult and frustrating to navigate. The stories as a collection seemed to me to be a hotchpotch of streams of consciousness. It is an incoherent collection and very few of the stories I enjoyed. When I read a story (especially a short story) I expect some outcome, a parablic or allegoric curve, a laugh, a reveal or a satisfying ending but I just didn’t find the majority of the stories in this book to be very good.
I still wonder what I am missing.