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Sept. 11: Zadie Smith on the anniversary of 9/11

Zadie Smith, perhaps the worlds' best 30-year-old novelist, comes to Butler University

When: Monday, September 11 7:30 PM

Where: Butler University Clowes Hall

This one is significant for several reasons. Zadie Smith is one of the most critically acclaimed young writers in the world. At only one level is it important because of what she has achieved in her three decades. The British Arts Coucnil handily summarizes the higlights of her career:

Novelist Zadie Smith was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother. She read English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997. Her acclaimed first novel, White Teeth (2000), is a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London, told through the story of three ethnically diverse families. The book won a number of awards and prizes, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall winner, Best First Book). It also won two EMMA (BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards) for Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer, and was shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Author's Club First Novel Award. White Teeth has been translated into over twenty languages and was adapted for Channel 4 television for broadcast in autumn 2002. Her tenure as Writer in Residence at the Institute of Contemporary Arts resulted in the publication of an anthology of erotic stories entitled Piece of Flesh (2001). More recently, she has written the introduction for The Burned Children of America (2003), a collection of eighteen short stories by a new generation of young American writers. Zadie Smith's second novel, The Autograph Man (2002), a story of loss, obsession and the nature of celebrity, won the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction. In 2003 she was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'. Her third novel, On Beauty, was published in 2005, and won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. She has also written a non-fiction book about writing - Fail Better (2006).

But Zadie Smith's significance goes beyond awards and sales and astronomical book advances. She is one of the few young writers who seems to appreciate how serious writing is. That doesn't mean she isn't funny ... "White Teeth" is hilarious. By serious I mean she seems to believe that the writer has a responsibility to challenge the reader, and to create a possibiltiy for the reader to be a better person at the end of the process. I am not sure how successful she is ... I need to read "White Teeth" again. But that she accepts this challenge is noteworthy. I very much look forward to reading her book "Fail Better: The Morality of the Novel" ... if and when it becomes available in the US.

A serious writer on a serious day.

You can find links to many of Smith's articles and short stories here. You can get a feeling for her voice in interviews here and here.

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