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Love in the Gardens

Zadie Smith on her father, mourning, and the gardens of Italy:

"There is a sentimental season, early on in the process of mourning, in which you believe that everything you happen to be doing or seeing or eating, the departed person would also have loved to do or see or eat, were he or she still here on earth. Harvey would have loved this fried ball of rice. He would have loved the Pantheon. He would have loved that Rossetti of a girl with her thick black brows.

"In the first season of mourning there is a tendency to overstate. But still I feel certain that this was the garden that would have made us both happy."

PUBLISHED: Oct. 19, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3738 words)

The Embassy of Cambodia

[Fiction] A maid from Ivory Coast works in northwest London:

"The only good thing that happened in Carib Beach was this: once a month, on a Sunday, the congregation of a local church poured out of a coach at the front gates, lined up fully dressed in the courtyard, and then walked into the pool for a mass baptism. The tourists were never warned, and Fatou never understood why the congregants were allowed to do it. But she loved to watch their white shirts bloat and spread across the surface of the water, and to hear the weeping and singing. At the time—though she was not then a member of that church, or of any church except the one in her heart—she had felt that this baptism was for her, too, and that it kept her safe, and that this was somehow the reason she did not become one of the 'girls' at the Carib Beach Resort. For almost two years—between her father’s efforts and the grace of an unseen and unacknowledged God—she did her work, and swam Sunday mornings at the crack of dawn, and got along all right. But the Devil was waiting."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 4, 2013
LENGTH: 34 minutes (8524 words)

The House that Hova Built

[Not singe-page] The rap superstar discusses his career and how he's remained relevant:

"In the years since his masterpiece 'Reasonable Doubt,' the rapper has often been accused of running on empty, too distant now from what once made him real. In 'Decoded,' he answers existentially: 'How distant is the story of your own life ever going to be?' In the lyrics, practically:

"Life stories told through rap/Niggas actin’ like I sold you crack/Like I told you sell drugs, no, Hov’ did that/So hopefully you won’t have to go through that. But can’t a rapper insist, like other artists, on a fictional reality, in which he is somehow still on the corner, despite occupying the penthouse suite? Out hustlin’, same clothes for days/I’ll never change, I’m too stuck in my ways. Can’t he still rep his block? For Jay-Z, pride in the block has been essential and he recognized rap’s role in taking 'that embarrassment off of you. The first time people were saying: I come from here — and it’s O.K.' He quotes Mobb Deep: 'No matter how much money I get, I’m staying in the projects!' But here, too, he sees change: 'Before, if you didn’t have that authenticity, your career could be over. Vanilla Ice said he got stabbed or something, they found out he was lying, he was finished.' I suggested to him that many readers of this newspaper would find it bizarre that the reputation of the rapper Rick Ross was damaged when it was revealed a few years ago that he was, at one time, a prison guard. 'But again,' Jay says, 'I think hip-hop has moved away from that place of everything has to be authentic. Kids are growing up very differently now.'"
PUBLISHED: Sept. 6, 2012
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3228 words)

Generation Why?

How long is a generation these days? I must be in Mark Zuckerberg’s generation—there are only nine years between us—but somehow it doesn’t feel that way. This despite the fact that I can say (like everyone else on Harvard’s campus in the fall of 2003) that "I was there" at Facebook’s inception, and remember Facemash and the fuss it caused; also that tiny, exquisite movie star trailed by fan-boys through the snow wherever she went, and the awful snow itself, turning your toes gray, destroying your spirit, bringing a bloodless end to a squirrel on my block: frozen, inanimate, perfect—like the Blaschka glass flowers. Doubtless years from now I will misremember my closeness to Zuckerberg, in the same spirit that everyone in '60s Liverpool met John Lennon.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 4, 2010
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5685 words)