Grand union : stories

by Zadie Smith

Hardcover, 2020

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Penguin Press, 2020.

Description

"A dazzling collection of short fiction, more than half of which have never been published before, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and Swing Time Zadie Smith has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically-respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. With ten extraordinary new stories complemented by a selection of her most lauded pieces for The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Granta, GRAND UNION explores a wide range of subjects, from first loves to cultural despair, as well as the desire to be the subject of your own experience. In captivating prose, she contends with race, class, relationships, and gender roles in a world that feels increasingly divided. Nothing is off limits, and everything--when captured by Smith's brilliant gaze--feels fresh and relevant. Perfectly paced, and utterly original, GRAND UNION highlights the wonders Zadie Smith can do"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lisapeet
Liked, didn't love—I had mixed feelings about this one, and I say that as a fan of Smith's. She's so smart—and I think her work is best when she's showing off her brilliance as a creative writer and dialoguist (I'm sure there's an actual word for that but it escapes me at the moment), channeling other voices to weave strange and wonderful realities or provide a sharp, skewed commentary on the contemporary day. When the voice and characters are closer to her own I like the work less—there's an odd blurring of short story, memoir, and essay going on in a few of the pieces that didn't work for me, as much as I enjoy seeing the gears in her excellent brain turn.… (more)
LibraryThing member pgchuis
I received a copy of this short story collection from the publisher via NetGalley.

My reading of Zadie Smith's work seems to fall into two categories: really loved ("White Teeth", "Swing Time") and can't get into at all ("The Autograph Man" and, unfortunately, this short story selection). I struggled with the shifts in perspective within individual stories and found myself mildly repelled, rather than drawn in, by most of those I attempted.

Not for me.
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
This collection includes nineteen stories, about half of which are exquisite and about half of which were either okay or, in three cases, lost me altogether. Both the first and the last stories were in this latter category but in between are an assortment of mostly very-good-to-excellent short works exploring time, identity, reality. Set in past, present, or future and moving between New York and the UK, Smith's stories tend to begin in the middle. The reader is asked to follow along as the time, place, and relationships among characters are revealed more or less indirectly. My favorites: "Words and Music," "Big Week," "Two Men Arrive in a Village," "Kelso Deconstructed," and "Blocked." Recommended for a patient reader.… (more)
LibraryThing member charl08
Lots of humour, reflections on changing times, on dystopian futures (and dystopian present). Highly recommended
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
There is something thoughtful about these nineteen stories. Or rather, thought is foregrounded over action, character, or emotion. They have a tendency to feel constructed. Especially the ones explicitly concerned with deconstruction. Metaphysical would not be a term of abuse here. Even philosophical. The kind of stories in which a narrator might casually bring up P. F. Strawson’s, “Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics,” using its full title, as I’ve just done. Which might be considered a bit heavy handed philosophy signalling, in the absence of virtue.

Perhaps the most famous story from this collection is the oft-reproduced, “Escape From New York,” in which Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brandon flee New York City together by car in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. It’s such an outlandish premiss as to almost partake of the zany. There are other near-zany stories, such as “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets.” Some, such as, “Parents’ Morning Epiphany,” are not stories, per se, but would not look out of place on McSweeny’s Internet Tendency. Some feel like formal narrative experiments, which perhaps like scientific experiments are considered successful whether they confirm or disconfirm an hypothesis.

So, not a lot here to warm to. Although one might nod one’s head in appreciation at the inspiration and (sometimes) the execution. But I couldn’t help thinking, often, that I’d rather read one of Zadie Smith’s fine essays or finer novels.

And so, only gently recommended.
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LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
I have read all of Zadie Smith's novels which I have enjoyed. However, it seems that I like each of her novels less than the previous one. In the case of this short story collection, it didn't totally work. 19 stories, 7 of which had been previously published. Some of stories were short and seemed more like exercises as a preliminary to a more extensive work. A less famous author probably would not have had these published. "Kelso Deconstructed" was the best story in the collection and was a true example of how good a writer Zadie Smith is. If you have not read her, I suggest you start with her first novel "White Teeth" and go from there.… (more)
LibraryThing member nicole_a_davis
I'm not a fan of short stories and even Zadie Smith's great writing couldn't change my mind. I made it about halfway.
LibraryThing member nancyjean19
I have enjoyed all of Zadie Smith's books so maybe I'm biased, but I thought these stories were great, too. Some of them felt more like essays or just musings, but I liked the variety of styles and subject matter, and as a New Yorker, it was fun seeing some of them set in New York around the NYU campus. I liked seeing her explore seeds of ideas that wouldn't be enough for a novel, but were just right a story.… (more)
LibraryThing member pivic
This is my first Zadie Smith book, a collection of short stories, most of which are quite short. The first one hit me well:

“In a matriarchy, you’d hear women boasting to their mates: ‘I subsumed him in my anus. I really made his penis disappear. I just stole it away and hid it deep inside myself until he didn’t even exist.’ ”


It's all in the middle of a story that is obviously written by a person who didn't exploit the material for the sake of igniting shock and awe; in other words, Smith is far away from Bret Easton Ellis and his ilk.

My son asked me if the young man was “sick in the head” which is our downtown euphemism for batshit crazy, but my daughter 01 who is very, very savvy said, “No way—look at his clothes!” I thought that was an interesting answer. It meant she was becoming an American. It meant she now refused to believe rich people can be batshit crazy.


Some of the conversations between Americans and Jamaicans were good to read. The lack of obvious plot felt fresh and lovely. On the other hand, I'm left with a feeling that I breezed through the stories. They were easily read, for sure, but I won't remember many of them, only the sentiment that this collection left me with. It's a good feeling and I will read Smith again.
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