What a treat. Zadie Smith is my ultimate favourite author. The way she grasps how one can feel foreign in a country they were born is always so perceptively on point.
Topped with my favourite author – my favourite bookshop (London Review Bookshop) hosted the event at RIBA’s office in London just off Oxford Street (which allowed me to see the Christmas lights after tonight’s event!)
Smith starts off with a reading of her new book Swing Time (which I have eagerly been anticipating – see my WOW post here). Smith explains her thought process behind the excerpt – racist demagogues. How apt in a time of Trump and Farage!
In conversation with Nikita Lalwani, Smith talked about how the book deals with a number of things from female friendships, celebrity and the idea of status of blackness. Clearly Smith’s continuing theme of belonging and sense of identity runs through to this current book.
What I enjoyed most about this talk was how Smith talked about being a writer and how it is “a lot like crawling into someone’s body and animate them within” she also talked about how her process of writing restricted her from moving on to page two if she felt page one was not ok. She reviews and amends as she goes. That must take an age!
A further interesting insight into Smith’s writing process was when she said that her intention with Swing Time was for it to be a quick 100 page book. It evolved into 400+ pages.
She says this is because she was aware that the third party reader will have pre conceived notions and assumptions of her characters and she wanted to dance around those and obliterate them. A novel, Smith notes, needs to be more than just loving or hating characters and so she did not want her readers’ prejudices to affect the way they viewed the story.
By far the best thing Smith said was when reference was made to her 10 Rules of Writing she said her only real rule was to read a lot.
What a great piece of advice for all of us.
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