Zadie Smith’s new book, Swing Time, comes out on November 15th. It’s about two friends who meet at a community dance class in the early 80s but only one of them has the gift for dance while the other has the gift of observation. I’m about 75 pages in and already I’m obsessed. But this weekend I had to take a break from Zadie’s Swing Time to read Zadie’s article in The Guardian comparing dance to writing. If you haven’t already, make sure you have 10 minutes to yourself, where you won’t be interrupted, so that you can enjoy this sublime piece of work by, well, like I don’t even know how to describe Zadie Smith because I feel so f-cking hard for her in a way that might be unhealthy.
But, without ruining it, she manages to work Lord Byron and Keats into a conversation about Michael Jackson and Prince. And draws similarities in absolute artistic control between Joan Didion and Jane Austen and Janet Jackson, Madonna, and Beyoncé. This is the validation of both high culture and low culture, and a declaration, by a literary force, that both are essential. Zadie Smith reads Nabokov. And she also knows the moves to Single Ladies.
While we’re talking about Beyoncé though, originally, when it was first posted, the title of this piece was What Beyoncé Taught Me. That has since been changed and I wonder whether or not it was Zadie herself who demanded it. I want to believe that she wouldn’t have cared, that it wouldn’t bother her, given the point she’s arguing here, to have her article presented initially as click bait. Click here to read Zadie Smith: dance lessons for writers.
Yours in gossip,