An excerpt from Zadie Smith’s essay, “Love in the Gardens,” in The New York Review of Books (Nov. 7, 2013):
When my father was old and I was still young, I came into some money. Though it was money “earned” for work done, it seemed both to my father and me, no different than a win in the lottery. We looked at the contract more than once, checking and rechecking it, just like a lottery ticket, to ensure no mistake had been made. No mistake had been made. I was to be paid for writing a book. For a long time, neither of us could work out what to do about this new reality. My father kept on with his habit of tucking a ten- or twenty-pound note inside his letters to me. I took the rest of my family (my parents having separated long before) to a “resort” back in the “old country” (the Caribbean) where we rode around bored in golf carts, argued violently, and lined up in grim silence to receive a preposterous amount of glistening fruit, the only black folk in line for the buffet.
It took a period of reflection before I realized that the money — though it may have arrived somewhat prematurely for me — had come at the right time for my father. A working life launched when he was thirteen, which had ended in penury, old age, and divorce, might now, finally, find a soft landing. To this end, I moved Harvey from his shabby London flat to a cottage by the sea, and when the late spring came we thought not of Cornwall or Devon or the Lake District but of Europe.
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Also today, specifically this morning, self finally made it to the Redwood City Library to pick up a book she had requested from another branch: Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. What absolutely bowled her over was how massive it was. It looked at least six inches thick. Just imagine self lugging around a book about a sixth of her height. Ixnay! She stiff-upper-lipped it and hefted it home. But she resolved never to bring it outside of the house. She will only read it indoors, in the living room, dining room, or bedroom. In deference to her gimpy neck, which sorely misses the masahistas in Bacolod . . .
The next book on her reading list, after Solzhenitsyn’s, is Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum, and that too is — oh, oh, oh, self! Expire right now. It is even a tad thicker than Gulag Archipelago.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.