Have you ever experienced this: You like a writer before you have any reason to like them? I felt that with Zadie Smith. I don't know how she came into my sphere of awareness. It was probably around White Teeth, when she seemed everywhere at once. Usually that kind of press is a pretty good indicator I won't like a writer. And so I stayed away from reading White Teeth for a very long time.
But I still liked her. In spite of being a darling of the lit scene that's represented by Vogue editorials and hipster endorsements and all things lacquered and shiny, she seemed to have some real grain to her. And every time I read an interview with her, that grain showed through a little more.
I've been dipping into Changing My Mind a lot recently. And on Sunday, I read an interview with her in the latest Brick and found myself loving her smooth tone and how her words ring out true and heartfelt without being twee. As with this Beckett story told by Auster, I find it immensely reassuring to hear expressions of self-doubt. I find it too easy to assume nobody else suffers from self-doubt and there's nothing more alienating and self-sabotaging than that thought.
"It's strange for me because when I first started writing, I was very young, and I thought everybody felt the way that I did, as you do when you are young. As I met writers (I never met any writers before in my life), you realize there are plenty of writers who just adore their work and think every word they write is absolutely fantastic and will defend it to their dying day. Some writers feel that way; I just can't find that confidence in myself. At the same time, there is not much point talking about it all the time because people think you are being falsely modest. But, to me , writing is a very painful experience. And I hope it will stop being so painful as I get older, but it doesn't seem to be getting any better." (Brick 85)