Zadie Smith (ED) - The Book of Other People
The Book of Other People (Hamish Hamilton)
‘Write a short story about a person,’ said Zadie Smith to 23 of fiction’s finest. And they did, each author taking the remit into a vastly different direction. From a New York socialite to a human mountain, a pre-pubescent girl to a dying judge, you couldn’t hope to meet a more disparate set of characters. So for sheer variety, The Book of Other People is to be applauded (so too its charitable status).
Inevitably, as with any collection, the quality comes and goes. Colm Tóibín’s beautiful portrayal of a grieving son is captivating, while Toby Litt’s pointless description of a monster takes us nowhere. The legacy of this book, however, is the potential introduction of writers to new readers. And if the back catalogue of Tóibín, Miranda July, Vendela Vida, Hari Kunzru, Chris Ware and George Saunders finds its way onto a few more shelves as a result, then Smith can consider it a job well done.