Loads of Learned Lumber

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Zadie Smith, _Swing Time_ (4)

ALMOST DONE, BUT I could not say farewell to this novel without gushing a bit about the structure as well. Not as audacious as that of NW, a bit of a retreat in that respect perhaps, but the way Smith toggles between the narrator's childhood story and her adult-life story demonstrates its own kind of mastery.

The novel opens with "It was the first  day of my humiliation"--the narrator has burned her bridges with Aimee, but we do not know how or why, and so one thread of the story begins, with our wondering how the day of humiliation came to arrive.

The prologue ends with the narrator receiving an accusatory text message, "Now everyone knows who you really are," which the narrator calls the "kind of note you might get from a spiteful seven-year-old girl with a firm idea of justice," then tells us, "And of course that--if you can ignore the passage of time--is exactly what it was." And so chapter one launches on the day the narrator met Tracey.

The braiding of the stories somehow raises the stakes for both of them, the switching  between them always carrying the effect of a heightening or an illumination, even though they do not intersect until almost the very end of the book.

Just getting better, that Zadie Smith.

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