Man vs. Corpse

The postapocalyptic scenario—the future in which everyone’s a corpse (except you)—must be, at this point, one of the most thoroughly imagined fictions of the age.

Man vs. Corpse

Forms, styles, structures–whatever word you prefer–should change like skirt lengths. They have to; otherwise we make a rule, a religion of one form; we say, “This form here, this is what reality is like,” and it pleases us to say that (…) because it means we don’t have to read anymore, or think, or feel.

Zadie Smith, in an essay on George Eliot and the Victorians and the evolution of the novel and such.

On the other side of the class and educational divide (…) it’s easy to forget what it’s like not to know.

Zadie Smith, in an essay on E.M. Forster collected in Changing My Mind. The context is whether or not readers pick up on literary/cultural references. It made me think of Ezra Klein.

The novels we know best have an architecture. Not only a door going in and another leading out, but rooms, hallways, stairs, little gardens front and back, trapdoors, hidden passageways, et cetera. It’s a fortunate rereader who knows half a dozen novels this way in their lifetime. I know one, Pnin, having read it half a dozen times. When you enter a beloved novel many times, you can come to feel that you possess it, that nobody else has ever lived there. You try not to notice the party of impatient tourists trooping through the kitchen (Pnin a minor scenic attraction en route to the canyon Lolita), or that shuffling academic army, moving in perfect phalanx, as they stalk a squirrel around the backyard (or a series of squirrels, depending on their methodology). Even the architect’s claim on his creation seems secondary to your wonderful way of living in it.

Zadie Smith, opening an essay on two opposing philosophies of the reader-writer relationship, pitting Barthes vs. Nabokov. Collected in Changing My Mind, which I recommend. I’ll probably post some more quotes from this book in the near future.