This week, I found out there are people who don’t know I’m a hopeless Zadie Smith fan. And, worse still, there are people who read books but do not know Zadie. If you fall into this latter category, please accept my apologies for I’ve not been doing my job as the apostle of all things Zadie Smith to this dark world. I’ve twice written about her on this blog, so I thought my friends—in the Facebook sense of the word—should at least know her. But I was wrong, and now have to wonder who exactly reads this blog.
There were many ways to spin this piece once people’s reaction to making Zadie my Facebook profile picture transitioned from impressed likes to baffling ‘what is wrong with Ife?’ (Shalla to the person who texted me thinking I’m a beautiful woman. You did wonders for my ego.) The obvious route was to do an essay on fandom and literary influences and how they shape us yada yada yada, but, guys, quite frankly, all that would be me being super-pretentious, because all I just want to say is, I love Zadie Smith. Shouldn’t that be enough? Some people have Beyonce, some have Olamide, others have Linda Ikeji (sadly), but I’ve got Zadie, George, Asa, and other people I Stan for and shall now consciously spend more time telling the world about, so that who no know go know.
My first contact with Zadie Smith was through Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets, a short story published in the Paris Review. I printed it out and read till I knew every detail. I found a recording of it by her and, subsequently, read every Zadie story with that voice in my head. I went on to read White Teeth, skipped Autograph Man, and read everything else she’d written: novels, essays, short stories, interview, etc. There’s hardly a YouTube video of her I haven’t watched.
If there was any suggestion that fandom is a rational thing, that liking someone who you haven’t met—or have met but only seen from a distance or shared a fleeting moment with—and poring over and personalising the details of their lives till they become more than family can be done with grace and dignity, Eminem dispelled it in Stan (featuring Dido, another fave of mine) and gave us a word apt for this phenomenon. Then the Bey hive came and showed us the extremes of what is already an extreme condition. If you have a lover who is part of the Beyhive, and you are too weak-willed to breakup with them like a decent human, just start subtle jabs about Beyonce in their presence, keep it steady, then end the assault with mocking the adorable Blue Ivy. If you do this right, they’ll block you everywhere possible. Now, if my love for Zadie is viewed in the light of the above, you’ll agree it’s not exactly a strange thing.
There’s evidence to suggest Zadie is fascinated by Nigerians, as evinced by numerous Naija people in her books, like Erskine Jegede in On Beauty, which I just reread. Her books are filled with enough people from our patch of god’s green earth to show that this isn’t just a passing fascination. I can even go ahead and say she loves Nigerians, because she’s had enough space in those books to throw ego-damaging jabs at us—not like it’d be difficult to find if she wanted to. I’m going through this because I need the hope that if I meet her someday, she’ll be disposed to liking me because of many things, nationality included. I know she likes Chimamanda, so that’s a place to start. A boy can dream…
There is also the all-important detail of her husband, Nick Laird, who, in his ken-doll-with-a-brain perfection, is the ultimate trophy husband. I mean, the guy does one of the few literary things Zadie doesn’t do openly—write poems—and does it well enough to have it become a central part of On Beauty. One part of fandom is to have a love-hate relationship with the spouse of the star, tolerating their presence in the lives of the people we love only because they’re shackled to our faves by romance. In the case of Nick Laird, it’s impossible to hate the man. One thing is certain though: going by the faces of the parents, their children are going to be heartbreakers.
As I wrote out this, my mind went to a quote by another fave of mine, David Foster Wallace, from his now ubiquitous Kenyon commencement address:
“There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship-be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles-is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things-if they are where you tap real meaning in life-then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already-it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power-you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.”
It is with that meditation on worship, without descending into my familiar territory of struggle pretentiousness, that I’ll end this note on fandom. Find Zadie. Read Zadie. Love Zadie. Peace on you my brethren.
Featured Image via Flickr by Jan Postma