" When everyone’s building a fence, isn’t it a true fool who lives out in the open?" Author Zadie Smith (lotsa previously on the Blue) ruminates on Brexit, as well as class, race, and an uncertain future. (slNYRB)
Dead Man Laughing. Comedy, family, class (British) and death intertwine in this essay by Zadie Smith. [more inside]
Falling short: seven writers reflect on failure is a collection of seven short essays on failure by writers Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Anne Enright, Howard Jacobson, Will Self and Lionel Shriver. These range from the meditative to the funny. Essays reflecting on literary failure are legion, but let me point you towards a couple more, the brief Failure Is Our Muse by Stephen Marche and the longer Fail Better by Zadie Smith.
They Say Art Is Dead in New York. They're Wrong. – Alan Feuer, NYT (December 2014):
Somehow, in the last few years, it has become an article of faith that New York has lost its artistic spirit, that the city's long run as a capital of culture is over. After all (or so the argument goes), foreign oligarchs and hedge-fund traders have bought up all the real estate, chased away the artists and turned the bohemia that once ran east from Chumley's clear across the Williamsburg Bridge into a soulless playground of money.
Last year, the foremost proponent of this doomsday theory was the rock star David Byrne, who complained in The Guardian that artists, as a species, had been priced out of New York. This year, others joined him. The novelist Zadie Smith lamented in October, in The New York Review of Books, that the city's avant-garde had all but disappeared. The musician Moby wrote a comparable essay in February, describing how creative types are fleeing New York and referring to his former home, accurately but narrowly, as "the city of money." Just a couple of weeks ago, Robert Elmes, the founder of the Galápagos Art Space in Brooklyn, declared the indigenous "creative ecosystem" was in crisis — so, naturally, he was moving to Detroit.
Exquisite Corpse [New York Times]
Taking their cue from the Surrealist parlor game, 15 renowned authors take turns contributing to an original short story.[more inside]
"Here the focus is narrow, almost obsessive. Everything that is not absolutely necessary to your happiness has been removed from the visual horizon. The dream is not only of happiness, but of happiness conceived in perfect isolation. Find your beach in the middle of the city." [more inside]
In the end, the only thing that could create the necessary traction in our minds was the intimate loss of the things we loved. Zadie Smith on climate change at a personal level.
Some Notes on Attunement: A voyage around Joni Mitchell (or pdf). Author Zadie Smith discovers Joni Mitchell.
Many writers are using software to fight what they call Internet Addiction that is interfering with their work. Zadie Smith thanked the programs, Freedom and Self Control, in the acknowledgements of her new novel,NW, which has a character who is addicted to online message boards. Other writers, including Booker short lister Will Self, prefer to use typewriters instead of being tempted by the Web's lures. Scientists have recently linked internet addiction with a nicotine addiction gene, although there is no consensus on whether it is addiction or habituation.
"On February 2, 2011, Harper’s Magazine and New York University’s Creative Writing Program held a discussion between Harper’s New Books columnist Zadie Smith and Reviews editor Gemma Sieff. The following is a transcript of their conversation, which covered such topics as the influence of motherhood on female novelists throughout history, the peculiar pitfalls faced by authors who write both fiction and criticism, and the place of Eminem in the hip-hop canon. Smith’s first New Books column for Harper’s appears in the March 2011 issue, now available on newsstands and to subscribers on harpers.org."
"You can’t help feel a little swell of pride in this 2.0 generation. They’ve spent a decade being berated for not making the right sorts of paintings or novels or music or politics. Turns out the brightest 2.0 kids have been doing something else extraordinary. They’ve been making a world." Zadie Smith on Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network, and Facebook.
Nabokov, Meet 50 Cent: Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind. "Those who have been paying attention to Zadie Smith since her White Teeth debut likely already know about her affinities for E.M. Forster, Lil Wayne, George Eliot, Kafka, and Fawlty Towers. She's one of probably three working writers capable of smuggling a riff on the perils of "keeping it real" into The New York Review of Books."
Speaking in Tongues is a terrific piece of writing by Zadie Smith. It's a little bit about Barack Obama. Mostly, though, it's about "world"-traveling and polyvocality. (pdf)
The first stage in the evolution is contingent and cannot be contrived. In this first stage, the voice, by no fault of its own, finds itself trapped between two poles, two competing belief systems. And so this first stage necessitates the second: the voice learns to be flexible between these two fixed points, even to the point of equivocation. Then the third stage: this native flexibility leads to a sense of being able to "see a thing from both sides." And then the final stage, which I think of as the mark of a certain kind of genius: the voice relinquishes ownership of itself, develops a creative sense of disassociation in which the claims that are particular to it seem no stronger than anyone else's. There it is, my little theory—I'd rather call it a story. It is a story about a wonderful voice, occasionally used by citizens, rarely by men of power.
The Atlantic Monthly has helpfully indexed literary interviews from its archives. These include, among others, Alice Munro, Chinua Achebe, Dennis Lehane, Zadie Smith, Charles Simic, Salman Rushdie, Susan Sontag and John Irving.
Le Conversazioni: Last summer a group of writers including David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Franzen, and Jeffrey Eugenides gathered on the Isle of Capri to discuss language and identity. This year's lineup includes Ethan Coen, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Claire Messud, and Chuck Palahniuk.
Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha" and Panjabi MC's collaboration with Jay-Z don't mark Desi's lone inroads into mainstream European and North American culture. The creative hybridizaton might not be widespread, but the impact is felt well beyond pop music, from examples that often range from the comedic to the dramatic to the controversial, giving a glimpse into the ongoing conversation between widely disparate cultures and traditions, going beyond convenient media stereotypes.