Zadie Smith: “Permission to Enter”

"Permission to Enter"
by Zadie Smith
Originally published in the July 30, 2012 issue of The New Yorker.

I admit I’m excited to read this one by Zadie Smith, though I am disappointed the magazine has again opted to publish an excerpt from a forthcoming novel by a prominent novelist.

4 thoughts on “Zadie Smith: “Permission to Enter”

  1. I found this enjoyable to read, as far as it goes. But the structure and narration leave me uncomfortable. We receive the story in a somewhat disconnected, clinical, and ironically detached voice. Unsuprisingly, that left me viewing the characters with clinical and ironic detachment. Perhaps worse, they and their experiences just felt generic. (As the narrator says, Keisha was experiencing “the banal fate of adolescents everywhere.” That seemed to apply to much of the story.)

    The themes that might have stayed with me were related to Keisha’s name change and Rodney’s harsh endictment of her at the end. Those parts of the story just didn’t feel developed enough to resonate. For me, a lot of what Keisha experienced could just as easily have happened to a rural person being confronted with the big city, a jew navigating a gentile world, an East German dealing for the first time with the West, etc.

  2. I really like Zadie Smith (especially her novel “On Beauty”) and was looking forward to this story. I was a little leary when I saw all those numbered vignette headings, and that turned out to be the only thing I didn’t like. I just wish this had been written in a more “normal” style.

    Having said that, there were many moments that resonated for me, such as trying to ascertain the outline of a friend’s personality as you both grow and change. And in a few cases, the economy of this style worked well, such as the list of Leah’s and Keisha’s answers to unspecified questions.

    I’m assuming the novel that this comes from is not broken into 7000 little vignettes. If so, I’ll pass. Otherwise, I’m curious to read it.

  3. I enjoyed this for the stylistic pleasures of each sentence, of each section. I would agree with the criticisms above and am not sure why it was in sections. I did feel that the Rodney character is dealt with rather cruelly in the final paragraph.

  4. I felt a tremendous need for an editor and about ten years for this story to come together; at the moment, its disconnected format seems to me to be a way of making connected information seem hip; its characters, whether imagined or as I suspect autobiographical, seem barely outlined; and its ending abrupt. Oh God, I just read Alice Munro’s “Progress of Love” for probably the tenth time and have set the bar impossibly high.

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