Intro for November 21, 2016
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My weekend: Fantastic Beasts and Zadie Smith. Did you know that the niffler was based on the honey badger? There’s a lot more to say about the movie. But since some of you might be saving it for US Thanksgiving, we’ll hold off on saying much more. Hurry though!
As for Zadie Smith, there was so much to read about her this weekend! In The Atlantic, Zadie talks about “the politics and everything else, bound inextricably to each other” and defends the kind of journalism that encourages us to “bend imagination toward empathy”. In The New York Times, Zadie talks about reading, what she reads, what she doesn’t read, how she feels when she reads. I love the part when she compares the work of a fresh new writer to watching Simone Biles perform. And when asked about the kind of writing she considers “disappointing or overrated”, what she can’t get into, she gives a short list, with her personal rationale, and then ends with, “And I hate every single last one of those Beats, both in poetry and prose”. God I want so badly for her to say this to James Franco. But I’m not sure she would. Zadie Smith doesn’t need to tussle with the Artist Franco, it’s not worth her time.
For Vanity Fair, Zadie answers the Proust Questionnaire. Since I’m obsessed with her, all of her answers are worth studying, although I’ll highlight a couple here. What does Zadie dislike most about her appearance?
“I like it all. Self-hatred is for younger, prettier women.”
And her motto?
“Regret everything and always live in the past.”
YES. I am so over being told not to dwell on regrets because they always bring something to your life. Most of my mistakes, including most of the people I’ve slept with, brought nothing to my life and I regret almost all of them and I would be much better if I could go back and delete them, God.
Finally, Lena Dunham interviews Zadie Smith for Lenny. Lena is bragging here about being friends with Zadie – like they have a “friendship anniversary” – and, sure, maybe it’s annoying, but it’s only annoying because she gets to be friends with Zadie and we don’t. If I had a “friendship anniversary” with Zadie Smith, I’d make everyone else in my life observe it too. During their conversation, Zadie once again shouts out Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing (have you read it yet?!?) and then, while discussing male vs female anxiety and how women experience “imposter syndrome”, Zadie turns female angst into a meditation on empowerment…by using FOMO!
FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out. Duana, for example, is the person in my life with the most acute case of FOMO. She wants to be everywhere, she wants to see everything. There’s a connection here with regret. FOMO opponents are often, not always, but often, the same people who will tell you to treasure your regrets for where they led you in the end, criticising those with FOMO for chasing a maddeningly endless series of moments instead of living in your own moments. The way Zadie spins FOMO though? FOMO is not about not wanting to live your own life but the capacity to conceive of and then appreciate other lives:
“I have always thought that I should be doing things differently, or like someone else. But I feel that this can be in fact a form of strength. I also think this restless and comparative instinct may have deep roots in female experience. For example, not long ago I was leaving a kid's birthday party with my six-year-old daughter and a friend of hers. The friend wanted to know where we were going now and what we were going to do once we got there. Would we watch a movie at home? Read a book? Have ice cream? Go to bed at seven or eight? With juice or water? And when I answered all her queries, she cried: "Not fair!"
Now, if it were my son parting from another boy, I can't imagine him being quizzed in this way or quizzing anyone else. When my son leaves another boy, it's as if that boy has ceased existing. But my daughter, like her friend, is tormented by what might be going on elsewhere, in another girl's life. You can describe this as a kind of feminine problem, but looked at in another way isn't it an extraordinary gift? To be able to so thoroughly imagine what the girl who just left your presence might be doing, at any moment, and to so fully enter that imagining that you're infuriated by it? It's a form of engagement!”
Zadie Smith just feminised FOMO. And she just posited that FOMO is the root of empathy. So, to borrow her own analogy, it’s as exhilarating as watching a Simone Biles tumbling pass.
Last recommendation from the weekend – The New York Times profile of Van Jones, whose emotional “white-lash” appearance on CNN on election night was one of the most unforgettable moments in a painful year.
Yours in gossip,