Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

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A Year in Reading: Joshua Ferris

I had the great pleasure of reading Sarah Manguso’s memoir The Two Kinds of Decay, a spare, unsentimental account of her fight against a rare autoimmune disorder. Manguso brings to the memoir a poet’s attention to line breaks and white space, which amplify the chilling juxtapositions and naked declarations of her monumental physical struggle. It’s a rare form for the memoir, one that perfectly suits its subject.

Holly Goddard-Jones wrote a sad, dark, honest-spoken collection of stories called Girl Trouble, set in rural Kentucky—all eight of them 80-proof and among my favorites of the year.

And I’ve just finished the lion’s share of essays in Zadie Smith’s collection Changing My Mind. I think Smith the best critic of her generation, maybe the best mind altogether. Certainly no one has written a more loving critical appraisal of David Foster Wallace than she has in the final essay, where she makes a convincing case that Wallace’s difficulty and maddening recursion was not purposeful obfuscation, but the manifestation of his commitment to making meaningful human connection on the page.

More from A Year in Reading

New Releases Tuesday

Today sees the arrival of a unique title from the Center for the Art of Translation. Wherever I Lie Is Your Bed provides translated poetry and fiction from 30 writers and is meant to introduce English-speaking readers to writers whose work would otherwise be difficult or impossible to find in English. Elsewhere, the biggest literary release of the week is Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura, which has caused no small amount of consternation among critics, and Alice Munro’s latest collection, Too Much Happiness, which can be expected to be more warmly received. On the non-fiction side, a new collection of Zadie Smith essays came out last week.

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