How many words, altogether, have already been written about Zadie Smith’s NW? The larger cultural conversation seems to be able to stomach only one Serious Novel every year, which makes Smith’s newest one, with the usual reviews and essays as well as multitudinous NPR appearances and online-journal considerations so exhaustive they feel like TV-show recaps, this year’s Freedom. That’s because NW is Smith’s first book in eight years, following On Beauty, which we—the effete liberal crowd—all sort of ignored because we cared more for the importance and gravity and bombasticness and precociousness of her first novel, White Teeth. This is also because NW addresses class, race, wealth, public housing, childhood friends, and gentrification. In a world that can’t get away from any of the above, we’ve latched onto NW to soothe our social-justice consciouses (Smith identifies the race only of her white characters. Subversive!). Though a not-small number of critics has quibbled with it (on Fresh Air, Maureen Corrigan called the book’s ending “preposterous”; a Guardian blog post mocked Smith’s prose, which occasionally resembles a car crash between James Joyce and e.e. cummings), NW is undoubtedly the year’s biggest literary release.
Zadie Smith discusses her work at 7 p.m. at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW. $27 admission includes book. sixthandi.org. (202) 408-3100.