On Deciding Not To Engage Zadie Smith In Conversation

I can’t guarantee it really was Zadie Smith I saw coming out of Bookhouse (lovely discount bookstore off Tottenham Court Road) on Saturday, but it certainly looked a lot like her. Thoughts of saying hello skittered briefly across my mind, but disappeared almost immediately. I figured even literary celebrities might get tired of being recognised, and what with loaded Tesco’s bags in my hands and a bad hair day, I didn’t really feel I was in optimum mode for meeting anyone anyway.

What would I have said, anyway? Do you come here often? Lovely bookshop, isn’t it? Hey, liked your book. You really do like Salman Rushdie a lot, don’t you? Not that I’m saying your book’s derivative. He should be flattered, really. And so should you, because his writing style’s so tough to copy, I mean, emulate, no, I mean…er…lovely day, isn’t it?

I was probably right to keep all that for the inner monologue. But I really do like White Teeth, even if a large part of that liking is derived from loving Rushdie.

[Indulge me on a tangential analogy here: I like And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead largely because they manage to incorporate a ridiculous amount of all that is good about Sonic Youth in their work, and avoid the bad (Kim Gordon vocals, for example). Perhaps it’s completely arbitrary of me to say Trail Of Dead’s Madonna and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth are influenced but not derivative, but somehow that’s how I intuitively feel about them. The realm of artistry is theoretically open to both the Velvet Undergrounds and the Velvet Underground-influenced, although in practice we may justifiably bicker about the door policy. (There is no guest list.)]

[Footnote to above tangent: I probably diss Kim more than necessary. She takes a lot of getting used to, but it wouldn’t be the same without her. Love Kim, really.]