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There is a simpler way of putting it: here is Smith, coolly appraising, connoisseurial, discerning; and here she is, too, the book nerd, the culture geek, reading, hearing and seeing, occasionally dizzied by her own place among all these works of art, and dying to talk to somebody about it.
What makes you cringe? The self encompasses both. Dipping into these pieces in any order is like setting out on a walk with a vibrant, curious, gracefully articulate friend. Beyond doubt, she has joined their company.
Can freedom come as the result of an instruction? Tellingly, that essay comes under the heading In the Gallery, alongside pieces about art and artists.
Smith returned to Peele last year, when she wrote stunningly about Get Outhis debut feature film, now Oscar-nominated. Equally at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive--and never any less than perfect company.
Why, the rapper Jay-Z, of course. Over and again, Smith comes back to the gift of culture that fell into her lap when she was a child, but which she also had to find a way to assimilate into her life.
Its simplicity, its classlessness, its accessibility and yet its erudition—the combination is a trick few British writers ever pull off.
You know how looking at a math problem similar to the one you're stuck on can help you get unstuck?