Did any of you catch Zadie Smith on Desert Island Discs last Sunday morning? For readers not in the UK, DID is one of the oldest programmes on British Radio; the interviewees pick five of their favourite records that they would take to a desert island and in between plays they tell their life story, every episode from the last fifty years or so is archived so you can always pick your favourite politician, writer, artist etc and hear their interview.
Smith’s appearance was both charming and amusing, her nonchalant attitude to her incomprehensible success only added to her allure. From her humble beginnings in Willesden, to Cambridge and cut-throat world of literary London, she is truly British enigma. I’ve read all of her novels bar her latest, it’s on the list, and her modern, independent but classically influenced style is a favourite of mine. Her attachment to E.M. Forster drew me to her in the first place, any fans of his should read Smith’s On Beauty for a modern take on his novel Howards End.
The highlight of the interview however had to be her comments about the singer Madonna, and how she represented 21st Century feminism:
“When I was a kid there’d be boys knocking around the playground talking about pop stars or actresses they would ‘Do’,” she said. “I never ever heard that about Madonna. There was never a question that some nine-year-old was going to tell you what he would Do to Madonna if he got his hands on her [...] And subconsciously that’s the effect she gave to the generation of girls who came up around her. You were not going to be Done unto. If anyone was going to be doing the Doing it was going to be you.”
A lot to take in for a Wednesday morning, I know.
Girls, read her books, and if you do one thing today listen to the interview.