Author Zadie Smith, who is this year’s Zale-Kimmerling Writer in Residence at Tulane University, will give a reading and sit for an interview with Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé, Assistant Professor in English, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1, at the Lavin-Bernick Center (Kendall Cram Auditorium, 2nd floor).
Smith is the author of six books, most recently NW, which is an exploration of a London neighborhood through the eyes of two childhood best friends. The novel showcases the sense of scrutiny often present in Smith’s work but utilizes a pared-down style and cast. NW was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction and was named as one of The New York Times‘ 10 Best Books of 2012.
From the New York Times review:
Zadie Smith’s latest novel, NW, introduces four characters: Leah, Felix, Keisha (renamed Natalie) and Nathan, all of whom grew up in the same impoverished part of northwest London. The postal code for the area is the NW of the title, and Caldwell — the housing project where the characters were raised — is the only fictional place on a very real map. The project consists of five tower blocks, each named for a giant of English philosophy: Smith, Hobbes, Bentham, Locke, Russell. Given the grimness of the locale, the names are only slightly less amusing than the titles of real tower blocks in Kilburn, which are named for Austen, Dickens and Fielding. There are times when the ironies of fiction cannot match those that reality provides.
Smith’s novels are notable not just for their social acuity, but also for their ability to absorb philosophical ideas. Her last, On Beauty, managed to be interesting about aesthetics as well as about race and compassion, and the prose was well turned and sweet-natured to match. The themes in NW are more radical and the language more fractured. Though it remains absolutely rooted, stuck to the map, contexts change and narrative styles shift. This is a book in which you never know how things will come together or what will happen next.
Smith’s acclaimed first novel, White Teeth, a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London, told through the stories of three ethnically diverse families, won a number of awards and prizes, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book). In 2003 and 2013, she was named by Granta magazine as one of 20 Best of Young British Novelists. Smith writes regularly for The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. She published a collection of essays, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, and is working on a book of essays entitled Feel Free. She is currently a tenured professor of Creative Writing at New York University.