I’m in the middle of a bad, bad, bad week that even the wonderful world of fiction isn’t remedying. While I’m on hiatus, the excellent Books staff at New York Magazine have seven suggestions for books to scratch your Gone Girl itch.
I know they’re giving you good guidance because Zadie Smith’s NW is the first suggestion on their list. If I were filling out the “Ten Books that Stayed with You” meme on Facebook, NW would be on my list. You see, I used to live in London’s NW. If you’ve read the book you’ll know that the neighborhood is far from fancy and stands apart from what outsiders think of as London. Home to a large population of Jamaican immigrants, Willesden Green and Cricklewood are far from the red telephone boxes of the traveler’s imagined London but to me the area was home and Smith’s work scratches a very particular itch. Place is always a character in Smith’s work and she taught me that all places deserve to have their stories told.
I was sad for a lot of the time I was in London. I was all alone and homesick, and though I loved the city my memories of it are usually tinged with melancholy. I’m sad this week too and part of dealing with a loss and with the fear and uncertainty of what happens next will be returning to the familiar; returning to Smith and her work as a reminder that I’ve been sad before but that things are usually alright in the end even if they aren’t alright in quite the way you planned.