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Friday, October 14, 2005

Smith And Wood Shake Hands

First, James Wood launched a diatribe against the genre of "hysterical realism" after 9/11, citing Zadie Smith's White Teeth as an example. Smith replied with a jab of her own, justifying her point of view. (She was later to call their spat "a bitchfight".)

Then, Wood criticised Smith's second novel, The Autograph Man on the same grounds. After which, the critic confessed in an interview with Robert Birnbaum: "I was very hard on Zadie Smith’s second novel. I knew when I was doing this year at Harvard that she would be here. I knew I had to meet her and I was very anxious about it...She was extraordinarily nice and generous to me. And we never talked about the review. Thinking through her maturity of response, I had various explanations. One of them was not that she bought my argument. Not that she said to herself, 'Oh ho, yeah he’s right I didn’t write a good second novel.' But more that she could see that what I wanted her to be doing was being better than herself."

Well, that meeting obviously cleared the air, for now, Wood has words of praise for On Beauty: ''What you see in this third book is that she wants to do something pleasingly old-fashioned, for a contemporary novel, which is to be a moralist and an aesthete. Besides the lovely polished style, she has this interest in what it means to create characters who are free agents and interact with one another."

So all's hunky-dory? Tch.Whatever happened to long-running literary feuds?


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