Of Cabbages and Kings

January 13, 2007

Zadie Smith on Writing

Filed under: Across the Universe — Chinmayi @ 8:43 am

Zadie Smith‘s written a brilliant piece  called ‘Fail Better’ for the Guardian. Some excerpts:

‘In what form, asks the writer, can I most truthfully describe the world as it is experienced by this particular self? And it is from that starting point that each writer goes on to make their individual compromise with the self, which is always a compromise with truth as far as the self can know it. That is why the most common feeling, upon re-reading one’s own work, is Prufrock’s: “That is not it at all … that is not what I meant, at all …” Writing feels like self-betrayal, like failure.’

‘When writers admit to failures they like to admit to the smallest ones – for example, in each of my novels somebody “rummages in their purse” for something because I was too lazy and thoughtless and unawake to separate “purse” from its old, persistent friend “rummage”. To rummage through a purse is to sleepwalk through a sentence – a small enough betrayal of self, but a betrayal all the same.’

‘But great writing – great writing forces you to submit to its vision. You spend the morning reading Chekhov and in the afternoon, walking through your neighbourhood, the world has turned Chekhovian; the waitress in the cafe offers a non- sequitur, a dog dances in the street.’

Read the whole article here.

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