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Martha and Hanwell

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Martha and Hanwell makes me wish that Zadie Smith would write short stories For some eason I am not interested in her longer works of fiction at all but so far her short stories convinced me of her skill for crafting interesting stories albeit The Embassy of Cambodia wasn t nearly as strong as this little collection of short stories Martha and Hanwell is part of the Pocket Penguins a series that celebrated the 70th anniversary of Penguin Books it features two short stories Martha Martha and Hanwell in Hell both are engaging and feature mysterious protagonists about whom the eader wants to know by the end of their espective narratives much is left in the dark as the stories only portray a very small moment in their lives We follow Martha for one afternoon as she is searching for a new apartment in America having just arrived from England We see Hanwell as he works as a dishwasher at a local pub and follow him through the night No proper introductions no proper endings exactly the way I prefer my short stories I want short stories to leave me wondering to leave me wanting In her introduction Zadie Smith wrote that these are close ups not panoramas She states that it took her a long time to understand that a story need not include the entire life and times of its protagonists Not every hero needs to be Pickwick I couldn t agree As we see Martha desperately searching for a flat having just hired the estate agent Pam we ealise that Martha is actually uite impassive yet sometimes unreasonably demanding and just overall not satisfied with the situation Pam soon feels very uncomfortable around her as she makes everything awkward There is no proper explanation for Martha s behaviour Only once does she let us glimpse behind her facade as Martha and Pam tour the apartment of a couple who is just about to move to Morocco Martha excuses herself and breaks down in the bathroom crying in her hand she holds a picture of a man and a baby at the back of the photograph is a love poem dedicated to her It is for the eader to decide whether Martha has left her husband and kid behind or whether they left her or if the picture even shows her husbandboyfriend and child they could be other family members of hers as well We don t know why Martha made the big move from the UK to the US all on her own we learn that she has ecently inherited some money from the UK to the US all on her own we learn that she has ecently inherited some money thousand dollars to be exact so it might even be the case that her lover and child died in a tragic accident Zadie Smith leaves us with no answers just the longing to know about Martha and whether or not she will be fine We get to know Hanwell through a letter that Clive writes to Hanwell s daughter supposedly after his death Only at the end of the story do we lear. Zadie Smith's debut novel was published by Penguin in 2000 Garnering both critical acclaim as well as a huge eadership White Teeth exemp. ,
N that Clive eached out to her after having ead her appeal in the press She seems to be very angry with her father who was absent Zadie Smith doesn t tell us these things in a straightforward way it s the eader s duty to piece the puzzle together Clive narrates how he met Hanwell decades earlier when he was at work and clearly miserable Hanwell s boss was a drunkard and criminal and even though he was technically hired as a dishwasher he soon has to fill in as a cook as well as a waiter This is how he got to know Clive by serving him cr pes that he didn t even order Their conversation was clumsy at first as Clive was accompanied by a beautiful woman who seemingly took interest in HanwellAs Clive and Hanwell ealised that they both come from the same ural egion in England and have both served in Paris during the war they decided to prolong their night by drinking in Hanwell s apartment They felt drawn towards one another because they saw their own loneliness and wretchedness eflected in the other At Hanwell s apartment Clive learns that he has ecently lost his wife through suicide and hopes that his children will be allowed to live with him as they are currently with their elatives Judging from the fact that years later Clive writes the letter to Hanwell s daughter we can deduce that Hanwell s hope never came true as he had no contact with his children afterwards That evening however he was still full of hope he even asked Clive to help him paint the oom for his daughters yellow being colourblind Hanwell falsely bought ed paint It doesn t matter Both men paint through the night and spent one of their happiest days together It is this feeling of happiness that makes Clive emember Hanwell as he eads the newspaper decades later and decides to write to his remember Hanwell as he eads the
decades later and decides to to his taking a little bit of their anger away letting them know that Hanwell had a beautiful way of hoping Not many men can hope ed yellow Zadie Smith s short stories were such a treat to ead and I can wholeheartedly ecommend them You can ead Hanwell in Hell here and Martha Martha here Being a fan of Zadie Smith s long form writing I was intrigued by the idea of someone So Verbose Writing Short Stories verbose writing short stories Smith herself admits her style of writing is hardly compact and this little volume fits an introduction as well as two short stories into fewer than fifty pages They say that curiosity killed the cat but that satisfaction brought it back this book definitely ewarded my curiosity It blew my mindWith the introduction Smith compares the state of short story writing in Britain and America and considers how she with a foot in both camps fits into the genre It s illuminating and conveniently gives the eader a fresh appreciation of th. Lified the kind of popular and intelligent books that Penguin founder Allen Lane sought to publish Martha and Hanwell brings together two. ,
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E craft before they begin the short storiesThe first story Martha Martha shows an aspirational young Black woman through the eyes of a ealtor Martha searches for a new place to call home a place that will offer a fresh start through proximity to a college and a place just big enough to contain the people she has left behind It deals with past and present ace and class in a way that is greatly compelling Something about Martha s polyester clothes and fake pearls nearly moved me to tearsUnlike Martha and even the narrator of Hanwell in Hell in the glimpse we get of Hanwell s life it becomes clear that his life is on a downward spiral Whereas the ealtor viewed Martha without compassion Hanwell is depicted with a tender sort of nostalgia This story devastated in a way that only a short story canBoth stories are incredibly perceptive capturing transient moments of human connection just perfectly Zadie Smith is such a gifted writer that her experiment in form can only be described as a success My only complaint is that there were only two stories when I could happily have ead a dozen Two short stories by my favorite author of the new millennium Smith eveal characters with subtle feelings than I have seen her write about before The uncanny for dialogue is there as have seen her write about before The uncanny ear for dialogue is there as as the sensitivity to the boundaries within multiculturalismThe first story Martha is about a young British Nigerian woman with aspirations interacting with a young American woman eal estate agent to find an apartment in the Boston area Despite their different backgrounds they seem to have parallel insecurities and unspoken anxieties There are painful human needs beneath the cosmopolitan yearningsThe second story Hanwell is about two Englishmen of different class backgrounds who are down on their luck One of the two finds eason to admire the other because of his ability to hope for the impossible I love the last line which to uote would be a spoilerZadie Smith herself in an introduction says the characters of her short stories are eal to her than the characters of her novels because of the need to concentrate on details in a short story ather than on a broad theme Her characters in these stories are now permanent esidents in my head but yet I have fun with the chaotic multiculturalism of her novels Tough to find Zadie Smith Two Short Stories two short stories that are eadily available on the internet but it s nice to have them in very thin book form Being a big Smith fan I tracked this down on ebay for about 40 Great short stories Two short stories by Zadie Smith from 20032004 Not up there with the genius of White Teeth or NW but anything she writes is worth a ead with her finely created characters and talented ear for dialogue. Of Smith's ecent stories never before published in book form offering a treat for fans of her witty powerful and often electrifying pro.

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