Well, it's the end of the semester. I know this because I saw End of the Semester Cat to-day. The last time this cat approached me was at the end of last semester. It's not so strange, maybe--I took the trolley almost all semester this time so I only parked in the neighbourhood off-campus where the cat lives a few times. I saved a whole lot of money I otherwise would've spent on gasoline by taking the trolley and I was able to do a lot of reading.
End of the Semester Cat started calling out to me from quite across the street and then ran out to meet me. She has a good memory. She also left the moment I started to leave so I think she's good at reading body language and taking cues.
I took a final exam to-day for a class on literary criticism. The exam was partly on a novel from 2000 called White Teeth
by Zadie Smith. She was only in her twenties when it was published so I had to overcome jealousy while reading it. It's not a bad book though it's not my cup of tea being a Post-Modernist examination of normal people in first and second generation immigrant culture. I had to write an essay on the book for class and in doing so I came across an interview with Zadie Smith
where she said something I really love:It was lovely to have such a large audience with
White Teeth, but it was unnerving to have people come up to me and say, "I love this part of the book" -- and it's the part of the book that is similar to their own life. So the Indian guy will say, "I loved Samad, but I didn't like that stuff with Archie at the end." The black woman will tell me, "I loved Hortense, but why all that stuff about the kids?" You want people to read the thing that isn't them. I abhor the idea, if you're an unmarried woman in your early thirties, of reading Bridget Jones; or if you're a guy in your late thirties, of reading Nick Hornby. You want to swap those books around. All across western readership people want this comfort reading. They want to have a reflection of themselves. I think really great fiction doesn't always give you that. I never pick up a book about a young, mixed-race woman in London. That doesn't interest me. And, of course, that's the book I get sent constantly by publishers. They think I want to read books about young, mixed race girls in London. That's the last thing I ever want to do.
Yes. So many wrong-headed reviews and reactions I see to books and movies come from people complaining they had no-one to identify with because there was no-one who resembled them in some superficial way. One of the greatest things about art is that it allows you to step into someone else's shoes. Wanting someone like you in a novel is like going to France and wanting to eat at McDonalds. That people are losing touch with this suggests to me a diminishing of empathy and imagination.