The Pieces of Zadie Smith

Posted in Articles, Media Archive on 2016-10-17 20:14Z by Steven

The Pieces of Zadie Smith

The New York Times Style Magazine

Jeffrey Eugenides

Briton, Jamaican, mother, writer, female: on becoming whole with one of this generation’s most vital literary voices.

ZADIE SMITH IS THERE and not there. In the streaming image on my laptop she sits at a desk, backlit in her book-lined office, her right hand holding a goblet filled with liquid of such a dark crimson that it seems to suck all the other colors from the room. In the dim light Zadie’s face looks pale, the scatter of freckles across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose shifting around as if in no fixed position.

Circumstances have forced us to talk via FaceTime. It’s after midnight in London, where Zadie is; dark too where I am, in the attic of my house in Princeton, N.J. Despite the 3,000 miles of ocean that separate us, the illusion is that we are facing each other across our individual writing desks.

I don’t like FaceTime. The sudden projection into my presence of a staring, homuncular creature always feels strange and violent. It makes me anxious to have to talk to someone like this and pretend they’re real.

There’s another reason for my hesitancy to credit what I’m seeing tonight. I’ve just finished Zadie’s new novel, “Swing Time,” and am still living in its shadow world. Like the black-and-white musicals that feature in its pages, the book is a play of light and dark — at once an assertion of physicality and an illusion — in which the main character, a girl born to a black mother and a white father, tries to assemble, from the competing allegiances that claim her, an identity that allows her to join the dance. This narrator is unnamed, as is the African country where much of the action takes place. The novel cloaks existential dread beneath the brightest of intensities.

I check the digital recorder. It appears to be working. The shadowy figure on my screen appears to be Zadie Smith. And so we begin…

Read the entire article here.

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Passing into the present: Contemporary American Fiction of Racial and Gender Passing

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2011-06-24 04:58Z by Steven

Passing into the present: Contemporary American Fiction of Racial and Gender Passing

Manchester University Press
256 pages
216 x 138mm
Hardback ISBN: 9780719082290

Sinéad Moynihan, Senior Lecturer in English
University of Exeter

  • Discusses wider themes including class, gender, sexuality, and religious identity
  • Focuses on Philip Roth’s ‘The Human Stain‘, Louise Eridich’s ‘Tracks’ Percival Everett’s ‘Erasure’ and Paul Beatty’s ‘The White Boy Shuffle
  • Looks at a wide rage of contemporary writers that represent the theme of gender and racial passing

This book is the first full-length study of contemporary American fiction of ‘passing’. Its takes as its point of departure the return of racial and gender passing in the 1990s in order to make claims about wider trends in contemporary American fiction.

The book accounts for the return of tropes of passing in fiction by Philip Roth, Percival Everett, Louise Erdrich, Danzy Senna, Jeffrey Eugenides and Paul Beatty. These writers are attracted to the trope because passing narratives have always foregrounded the notion of textuality in relation to the (il)legibility of black subjects passing as white. The central argument of this book, then, is that contemporary narratives of passing are concerned with articulating and unpacking an analogy between passing and authorship.

Aimed at students and researchers, it promises to inaugurate dialogue on the relationships between identity, postmodernism and authorship in contemporary American fiction.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction: ‘Passing’ into the present: passing narratives then and now
  • 2. Living parchments, human documents: passing, racial identity and the literary marketplace
  • 3. The way of the cross(-dresser): Catholicism, gender and race in two novels by Louise Erdrich
  • 4. (W)Rites-of-passing: shifting racial and gender identities in Caucasia and Middlesex
  • 5. Bodies / texts: passing and writing in The White Boy Shuffle and The Human Stain
  • 6. Conclusion: ‘Passing’ fads?: recent controversies of authenticity and authorship
  • Bibliography
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