Event Recap: Zadie Smith in conversation with Jenny Zhang — Launch of SWING TIME

Photos by David Smith/Careful Media.
This past Thursday, the 26th of October, we had the utmost pleasure of welcoming Zadie Smith to Montréal, where the superlative novelist appeared in conversation with Jenny Zhang. This event was part of our 10 Year Anniversary Reading Series, which has included Paul Auster, Heather O'Neill, and most recently Eileen Myles.

Despite the miserable weather, over seven-hundred Montrealers packed the house! Our intrepid store manager Rebecca Lloyd got the ball rolling, welcoming everyone to the beautiful Théâtre Rialto. She was proceeded onstage by Eliza Robertson, Montreal-based author of Demi-Gods (Penguin Random House, 2017), who introduced and invited to the stage the star-of-the-hour.

Zadie read from her latest novel, Swing Time, a striking story of female friendship which was published late last year. Smith’s is a multilayered narrative, as both the plot and her characters’ lives are ruled by competing forces: to hold a poor, single mother in the same light as a glamorous celebrity, to linger in memory while lumbering forward in time, to celebrate one’s heritage but not be defined by it. As she read to the rapt crowd: "Although entrapment, in this case, was another word for love."

Jenny Zhang, Brooklyn-based author of Sour Heart (Penguin Random House, 2017) and the evening's interlocutor, then joined Zadie onstage. Their conversation dove into family (Zadie: "My mother was a good-time girl!"), gentrification, humourlessness, and critical reception to their respective crafts (Zadie: "It isn't about the 'Search For Identity'! I am committed to being nobody in particular."). When asked about her purpose as a writer, Zadie had an interesting take: "[Writing] is meant to broaden your sensibility, complexity, pleasure... The fetishization of empathy is obscene and very suspicious... It's so easy to be a stranger to yourself, I write to avoid a life of self-deception."

After conversing, both authors happily stuck around to sign books for a long line of fans. Thank you to everyone for coming out and contributing to this magical evening. A big thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and the Théâtre Rialto for helping organize, and of course to the wonderful authors!

Photos by David Smith/Careful Media.

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