Zadie Smith In Her Write Mind

Postcolonial heroine Zadie Smith came to Boston recently to discuss her latest book, On Beauty. She told a packed auditorium about her thoughts on her writing technique and American culture. Unlike her first book, White Teeth, the inspiration for her book came from her brief time as a teaching fellow at Harvard University.

"I was living in America for a while," said Smith. "I had an idea that I wanted the book to be split. It was lovely to live somewhere else. I have lived on the same street in London all my entire life. Part of the book takes place in London. It was a cultural shock to move, and it proved to be fruitful."

Smith's decision to write about America's cultural wars came naturally to her. She was also amazed by how Amercans are "steeped in history," as opposed to Britons. Smith herself got in trouble recently for her dismay of her home country, which she says the media took out of content.

The author, who lives in north London, told New York magazine England was full of "stupidity" and "vulgarity". "When I think of England now I just think about the England that I loved, and it's just gone," she said.

Smith says that she meant that she was going through cultural shock to see London changing. "I have a fondness for England," said Smith in Boston. "When anything changes I freak out." She also added that she will never permanently move away from London.

One of the things Smith does like about London is Charles Dickens, who the literary world compares her work to.

"When I grew up Dickens was my hero," said Smith. "Maybe it is our Englishness. Anyone I am a fan of usually turns up in my writing."

The inspiration for her latest book the comparisons are now being made of EM Forster.

"He was not one of the greatest minds in literature," said Smith of Forster, "but he was one of the greatest novelists because he the greatest intuitive about people, which is an important thing to have as a writer."

A new attribute in the new book is the introduction of women characters who aren't thinly portrayed as in her previous books. Her relationship with women has changed over the years.

"I always called myself a feminist." said Smith. "But realized recently that I didn't like women that much. I grew up with men around me. Now that I am older I realized that I didn't really like 14-year-old girls. I have a better understanding of women now."

However, Smith goes back to the perennial issue of race and cultural sensitivity. While in America she noticed how the races don't interact with each other.

"Interracial couples are so common in England," said Smith. "Brown girls like me we are practically our own race. Whereas mixed race people are less common in America. Interracial dating became more acceptable in the US about ten years ago. Whereas this was never an issue in England.

A attendee in the auditorium asked if she could cast the actors for the movie version of On Beauty. "I think Queen Latifah would be a good choice for Kiki," said Smith. "I think she [Latifah] is not given enough good roles to play in."


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