Last Thursday, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty (which Michiko describes as “glorious“) made the Man Booker shortlist, much to the author’s surprise. Smith (left) had already told New York‘s Boris Kachka she believed she had “no chance… Have you seen the fucking list?” But although her post-announcement press release (in which she misquotes herself…or does she?) acknowledged she was “amazed and delighted to have been shortlisted alongside British and Irish writers for whom I have nothing but respect,” that’s not the reason she had to issue the statement.
What really got the Brits upset is that she also told Kachka England was a “disgusting place” full of “general stupidity, madness, vulgarity, stupid TV shows, aspirational arseholes, money everywhere.” Now she’s suggesting those quotes were “twisted and quoted out of context,” perhaps even fabricated, and what really bugs her is “bad reality TV shows and the obsession with wealth and celebrity.” (UPDATE: So I called Kachka for his response, and he played the relevant segment of the tape for me, and she certainly did say those words in that order, whatever the context might have been and whether she’s willing to stand by them now.)
Maud Newton tried to draw her out further on the controversy, but she’s already moved on–the author who hates to sell her own books is busy plugging Hilary Mantel’s Beyond Black.
(photo: Eamon McCabe)