Her Guide To Life

An Unofficial Guide to Staying Sane(ish) in your 20s

Friday, 2 December 2016

I Met Zadie Smith And I Totally Freaked Out About It

A couple of Mondays ago I went down to the Royal Institute of Architects near Great Portland Street to see a sold-out talk from bestselling author Zadie Smith. Yeah. I'll just let the coolness of that statement sink in for a second.

Zadie Smith, if you don't know her, is amazing. She is love. She is life. She is an amazing author, a pop culture critic, an inspiration to listen talk. Half of me is in love with her, and half of me wants to be her. Wikipedia will tell you in less biased terms that she is also an English novelist and short story writer from north-west London, who is currently teaching on the Creative Writing MA at New York University. Her brother, Ben Bailey Smith (aka Doc Brown) is an English rapper, writer, and actor.

Zadie writes about family, race, and identity in books like White Teeth and NW, which I absolutely adore. She has won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Guardian First Book Award, the Orange Prize For Fiction... and she's been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

So yeah. She's pretty badass.

This event was mainly to publicise her new book, Swing Time, which is about two mixed-race girls who meet at a tap dancing class when they're children and carry on a friendship throughout their lives. She read from it for about ten minutes, which almost made my ears drop off (internal monologue at this point: 'I'm hearing Zadie Smith read her own work. I'M ACTUALLY HEARDING ZADIE SMITH READ HER OWN ACTUAL WORK') and then had a very chilled out 'interview' in front of us all with author Nikita Lalwani (who also happens to be my boyfriend's lecturer at Royal Holloway. Small world, right?)

The interview was incredibly casual and sometimes pretty personal. Zadie loves hip hop, especially Biggie Smalls and Kendrick Lamar. She says that she doesn't write about romance, purely because it doesn't interest her. She says that breastfeeding has a really, really weird red circle around it as a subject (which it totally does). She stops to sneeze, loudly, and then laughs when Nikita says that her new book is 'important'. ('I love that. It's a book about dancing. What would you do if I just said, it's literally just a book about dancing?'

She's just...cool. Sheis just a cool woman, So cool, in fact, that afterwards, during the book signing, I literally could not say a word to her. I went completely mute. It was very, very embarrassing. BUT, I GOT MY BOOK SIGNED!

I've always felt a weird affinity with Zadie. It could be because I used to work at the publishing house that published her brother Ben's children's book, I Am Bear, OR it could be because all of her novels are set in north-west London, (Kilburn, Willsden Green, Queens Park, Kensal Rise, etc, etc) which is where I live for half of the time. In a bizarre twist of fate, I actually saw her running own Kilburn High Road one time this summer.

But I think mostly I feel an affinity towards her because her writing is exactly how I want mine to be - not concerned with fussy metaphors or long, swooping plot arcs. She writes simply, about characters that are completely believable, and the themes she tackles (identity, race, money, family) can be transferred to any part of the world at all. Her work is full of truth, even though it's fiction. Human truth. And that's why she gets me, every, single time, with her writing.

If you want more examples of why Zadie Smith should officially be crowned The Coolest Person On The Planet Right Now, here are some links to interviews that she's done recently:
AND, if you're looking for a thought-provoking read by a literary queen to round off 2016, you can buy Swing Time here. And let me know what you think!

Hannah x

Feature image © Hannah Billie Perry

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1 comment

  1. This is so funny we both wrote basically the same blog post about how much we freaked meeting her! Glad to find a kindred spirit.


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