Tuesday, September 25, 2012

smells like 'a particular human consciousness'

[image via New York magazine]

"It turns out that Clive's book smells like literature and looks like literature and maybe even, intermittently, feels like literature, and after a while Clive himself has almost forgotten that strange feeling of untruth, of self-betrayal, that his novel first roused in him." --Zadie Smith, "Fail Better" 

I heard Zadie Smith speak at the Cambridge Public Library last week, and though I didn't stay after to get my book signed and try to see what she smelled like (is such an investigation even creepier than asking?), I have no doubt she smells brilliant. Here are some other lines I love from "Fail Better" and "Read Better," companion pieces published in the Guardian in 2007: 
That is what I am looking for when I read a novel; one person's truth as far as it can be rendered through language.
Fiction confronts you with the awesome fact that you are not the only real thing in this world. 

And here's a fragrant fragment from NW
Even the bottle of perfume in her hand was shaped like a woman, a cheap knock-off from the market. He wished he could buy her the things she wanted! There were so many things she wanted. "And if you go past Wilsons on the high road--Fee, listen to me. If you past ask Ricky--you know which one I'm talking about? Little light-skinned boy with the twists. Ask 'im if he can come round and look at that sink. What's the time? Shit--I'm late." He watched her spray herself now in the hollow of her neck, the underside of her wrist, furtively, as if he was never to know she ever smelled of anything but roses and sandalwood.