Grand Union by Zadie Smith

Staff Pick

As innovative with the short story as she is with the novel, Zadie Smith in her first collection, Grand Union (Penguin Press, $27), features her trademark realism—with extended profiles of a recovering opioid addict struggling to reclaim his name, family, and position and an aging drag queen venting decades of frustration with a corset seller—along with pieces that dissect the clash between well-meaning political correctness and real lives. Other stories ride the line between satire and parable, with several exploring issues of colonialism and classism, while another poses as
a manual of narrative techniques to question standard literary elements such as plot, character, and, “the aim and purpose of all stories,” the moral imperative that the author “stir empathy”—which Smith presents as merely a “bowl…filled with a thick, dark, swirly liquid.” Meanwhile, Smith’s speculative fictions show us worlds where elites, after a brief training in “empathy for the dispossessed,” become part of the technology they control and leave the benighted behind. Largely driven by tone, these stories are by turns angry, ironic, and funny; they are always challenging and uncompromising, as Smith and her characters try to sort out “how much of this was reality? How much delusion? It was the question of the age.”

Grand Union: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525558996
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - October 8th, 2019

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