On Monday, Oct. 13, award-winning British novelist Zadie Smith gave a reading and commentary of her work as part of the Stieren Arts Enrichment Series.
â€œI have a couple of friends who have read her work and list her as one of their favorite authors, but I kind of went in blind,â€ said Rachel Maceross, a senior. â€œAnd I was really happy that I did, because just going in and listening to her read her work, without any expectations for what it should be, made it so beautiful.â€
After a brief introduction from Andrew Porter, head of the creative writing program, Smith began reading directly from her work. Smith is the author of five novels but chose to read a selection of her essays that featured herself as the speaker.
â€œI was touched when she discussed her hypothetical granddaughter in a way that made her seem like a living person,â€ said Ryan Diller, a sophomore. â€œBy imagining herself in dialogue with this yet-to-be-conceived girl, Smith made the inevitable damages of global warmingâ€”which, like her hypothetical granddaughter, have yet to be fulfilledâ€”even more real.â€
Smith read three of her non-fiction essays, including â€œElegy for a Countryâ€™s Seasons,â€ â€œFind Your Beachâ€ and â€œJoy.â€
â€œWhat these essays have in common is that they are about limits, which are always a hard thing to talk about in America, where weâ€™re so encouraged to think of ourselves as limitless beings in a limitless country in a limitless world,â€ Smith said.
Each essay featured moments and reflections from Smithâ€™s own experiences, set in familiar settings and around familiar objects or ideas.
â€œI loved hearing her perspective on the parts of living in New York that were different from her home in England,â€ said Erin Cusenbary, a senior. â€œIt was funny, but also eye-opening, to hear an outsiderâ€™s perspective on things that we see and absorb without questioning them, like the Corona advertisement that was the focus of one of her pieces.â€
With each essay, Smith focused on common experiences from everyday life, avoiding the extreme situations that often pop up for fictional characters in novels or short stories.
â€œWhile she was reading her work, there were words and experiences and feelings that I could resonate with,â€ Maceross said. â€œIt was neat to hear someone put words to things that you are feeling and help you to better express yourself.â€
After the reading, Smith was available for questions and book signings. A selection of her published work was available for sale outside of the Ruth Taylor Recital Hall.
â€œI took two things home from this lecture: a desire to read her works and a new copy of â€œWhite Teethâ€ from her merchandise table,â€ Diller said.
Smith is currently working on a book of essays, â€œFeel Free,â€ which will be published next year.