I was lucky enough to get tickets to her reading/interview/book signing at Toronto’s Harbourfront last night (hosted by the fab Becky Toyne) and I was the opposite of disappointed. I was detnioppasid.
She was jam-packed with so much easy, casual wisdom. I’m paraphrasing, so just picture these words but, like, much more eloquently said. And delivered by a deep voice. I did not expect that voice.:
“I just think that the novel has endless possibilities. I’ll hear from readers and they’re like ‘Argh! Where did the quote marks go? Why didn’t you use quote marks?’ I mean, in what other medium can you evoke such emotion, such anger? And over the smallest thing. It’s just a quote mark! [laughs] So for me the novel is an incredibly exciting form to work in.”She also spoke about the weirdness of success and how it changes people, not her specifically, but she has been around such people. Men and women so rich that their group of friends has become so tiny that the most important thing all that wealth and success has done to them is make them this: lonely, utterly. And isn’t that strange, she said, because it’s something we’re all supposed to strive for. Success. And then when we get there – in our Range Rovers sealed off from the traffic and our vacations on private islands and our mansions for two and our VIP areas… well, what’s the point? And then she laughed and you knew it would all be okay.
There were so many golden nuggets like that. I wish I had a better memory or that I’d brought a pen. But I couldn’t look away from the stage anyways, so I probably would have ended up scribbling all over my pants. You wouldn’t be able to see the pen because my 9-5 pants are black, always, but I would have known.
And her reading. Wow. Normally I get bored at readings and leave disappointed. But Zadie read like a champion, like a natural who knew how to marry the English language and vocal chords better than anyone had ever managed to do ever. Her reading of her latest book, NW, made me love NW. (Until then, I had only been liking it.) Because now I really understand what she was aiming for. And so now I’m all in.
To hear what Zadie actually said and to hear her read – because you MUST hear her read – the whole shebang will be broadcast on CBC radio’s Writers & Company on October 7. Eleanor Wachtel was a wonderful interviewer, by the way. Even though she didn’t ask a follow-up question when Zadie alluded to a “nearly fatal” incident that made time feel suddenly irrelevant. If you ever bump into her at a party, give it an ask, will you?