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An Essay Triptych

February 13, 2009 Leave a comment
Annunciation Triptych

Annunciation Triptych

Wednesday afternoon, during one of my periodic breaks from work to check the latest on the blogs, I learned from the New Yorker’s Rick Hertzberg of a fantastic essay by Zadie Smith in the latest issue of the competition, The New York Review of Books. He didn’t pull his punches, leading with “Please, I beg you: drop whatever you’re doing and read “Speaking In Tongues,” Zadie Smith’s brilliant meditation on Barack Obama.” Well, I sure was tempted, but you know, as many articles as I read now on my computer screen, it’s not the place where I want to read great writing. I decided to wait until the print issue arrived at home. And to my delight, it had already arrived. I just had to go home to find it.

Once I got home, I had to decide about the relative urgency of getting dinner organized, doing more blog catch-up, making more progress on grading the week’s course assignment, and dropping it all to read Zadie. Since Zadie’s piece comes in three convenient sections, I made the inane decision to read a section at a time, squeezing the rest of my life in between. I wouldn’t take this as evidence that I can no longer read more than a page or two at a sitting. I still can. Really. But not at the moment that I get home from school. There are too many other things to catch up on.

How great was Zadie Smith’s essay? You know how it is when someone tells you something is great. I knew she hadn’t just come down from Mt. Sinai with a third tablet, but I was ready for it. Instead, what I got was absolutely first rate. I’ll join Hertzberg in saying you should read her piece. Read his blog commentary on it too. Here’s a sample from the essay:
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Categories: Culture, Geography, Politics