Onto the fourth New Yorker story from their Best Stories of 2017, this week I read Zadie Smith’s Crazy They Call Me.
Zadie Smith is a contemporary author and professor of Creative Writing at New York University. Her first book, White Teeth, was published in 2000 and since then she has published multiple other novels, compilations of essays, and short stories.
Crazy They Call Me is a unique, second person story from the point of view of Billie Holiday. The story is used as the introduction to Jerry Dantzic: Billie Holiday at Sugar Hill which is a book of photographs taken from Holiday’s week-long performances in Newark, New Jersey.
Zadie Smith wrote this short story in response to Dantzic’s photographs, which offer an intimate look into the life of the star. It’s an interesting method of writing to use the second person and talk seemingly to the reader, but what makes this story even more unique was the liberty which Smith takes with projecting the mind of the iconic singer.
This piece is a different take on the writing we’re used to seeing about celebrities which are mainly interviews. It was bold for Smith to write a piece from the point of view of Holiday and to write what she thinks was going on in the mind of the singer. But the response from critics has only been positive.
Fans of both Holiday and Smith were drawn to this New Yorker story because it offered Holiday fans a chance to get inside the head of the singer during a brief but intimate time during her life. Followers of Smith enjoyed the piece for her boldness in taking on the subject, but also in the success she had with it.
Overall this story emphasized a niche side of The New Yorker, revealing that even the most specific fans of a writer or singer can band together in support of a piece of literature.