“Zadie Smith would be renamed Flawless”
Photograph of Roxanne Gay by Slowking4
Have you ever created a character that you let be human and in doing so, he or she became more likeable, so much so that he or she changed your view about something or ways of being? Or if not, has the opposite ever happened — that you created a character so unlikable it changed your own way of being in the world?
Lorraine in An Untamed State is one of those characters who was very human and flawed as the novel began but the more the story moved forward, the more we got to see the extent of her humanity, and in seeing a more whole picture of Lorraine, we were able to see that she may not be perfect but she was someone interesting and caring and, in her way, likeable. She remains the character I’ve written who has surprised me the most because she forced me to confront my assumptions about what a woman like her would do and whether or not she would be able to grow.
In “Garish, Glorious Spectacles” (that title is so awesome because it reminds me of that Neutral Milk Hotel line, “God is a place where some holy spectacle lies.”) you talk about how on the show Flavor of Love, Flavor Flav renames his girl suitors, turning them into a bunch of silly and offensive creations, in order to take some ownership of them. Which of course is pretty awful, but then again, it’s interesting how you claim ownership over something when you rename it and I guess that’s how so many pet names and nicknames work in good ways. In this spirit, if you could rename your three favorite writers, what would these new names be and why?
This is a fantastic question. All of these questions are great, actually.
Edith Wharton would be renamed Elegant Blade because she was able to cut so deeply with her social critiques.
Zadie Smith would be renamed Flawless because, well, she is flawless and she only needs to go by one name, kind of like Beyoncé, who is also flawless.
Dave Housley, one of my favorite writers who is active in the small press world, would be renamed Witty Wizard because he writes about pop culture in such a confident and knowing and clever way.