Zadie SmithJun 2, 2022
Zadie Smith in Focus (JP)
New Books Network 2022
In this 2019 episode, John interviews the celebrated British writer Zadie Smith. The conversation quickly moves through Brexit (oh, the inhumanity!) and what it means to be a London–no, a Northwest London–writer before arriving at her case against identity politics. That case is bolstered by a discussion of Hannah Arendt on the difference between who and what a person is.
Zadie and John also touch on the purpose of criticism and why it gets harder to hate as you (middle) age. She reveals an affection for “talkies” (as a “90’s kid,” she can’t help her fondness for Quentin Tarantino); asks whether young novelists in England need to write a book about Henry VIII just to break into bookstores; hears Hegel talking to Kierkegaard, and Jane Austen failing to talk to Jean Genet. Lastly, in Recallable Books, Zadie recommends Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s The Bathroom.
- Zadie Smith, White Teeth, NW, Swing Time, “Two Paths for the Novel” “Embassy of Cambodia,” Joni Mitchell: Some Notes on Attunement” “Zadie Smith on J G Ballard’s Crash“
- Willa Cather, Song of the Lark (1915, revised 1932)
- Elif Batuman, The Idiot
- Charlotte Bronte, The Professor and Villette
- George Eliot, Middlemarch
- Pauline Kael, various film reviews
- Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
- Ursula Le Guin, “The Story’s Where I Go: An Interview”
- Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child
- Hilary Mantel, Beyond Black and Wolf Hall
- Dexter Filkins, “The Moral Logic of Humanitarian Intervention” (on Samantha Power)
- Patti Smith, Just Kids
- Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge, Olive Again
- Gary Winick (dir.), Thirteen Going on Thirty (starring Jennifer Garner, not Anne Hathaway)
- Sally Rooney, Normal People
- Toyin Ojih Odutola
- Matthew Lopez, The Inheritance
- Jean-Philippe Toussaint, The Bathroom
Elizabeth Ferry is Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. John Plotz is Barbara Mandel Professor of the Humanities at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Email: email@example.com.