LITERATURE

Intimations: Six Essays

Penguin. Aug. 2020. 112p. ISBN 9780593297612. pap. $10.95. LIT
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The six personal essays that comprise this compelling brief volume gives us novelist Smith’s (Swing Time) impressions and thoughts during the pandemic lockdown following the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. A major voice of contemporary literature, Smith gently and thoughtfully takes on a broad range of issues that are personal to her but speak universally to many of us. Her essay on “The America Exception” is a challenge to President Trump’s misplaced nostalgia. The series of vignettes that make up “Screengrabs” uses Smith’s sharp writing skills to create several disparate portraits—one of a man who runs a nail salon in New York, another of the IT student whose “style” is a trait of youth, and still another of a “heavy smoking” neighbor, among others. The most compelling observations in “Postscript: Contempt As a Virus” bring us back to the acute uneasiness of the present moment as reflected in behaviors by British prime minister Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, who violated shelter-in-place orders in Great Britain, and also the brutality of Floyd’s murder.
VERDICT Smith demonstrates once again that she is a powerful albeit quiet voice for our challenging times. Highly Recommended.

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