I happened to hear an interview with Zadie Smith this morning on my way to work, and I loved it.

Listen here.

The idea of women creating new forms in literature and the visual arts had been in the back of my mind all day yesterday as I was thinking about and blogging in response to Elizabeth Wurtzel’s article.

When I heard this interview with Zadie Smith, my thoughts began to broaden in their scope.

Zadie’s form, although referred to in discussion as a novel, is unique. In the interview, she says that rather than wanting to be merely experimental, she intended to create a “narrative that replicated a feeling” – the feeling that time has sped up.

Furthermore, the interview included a brief discussion of her approach to race within the work – black characters are never described as such, she says, in order to turn the idea of race on its head. Whereas the majority of literature is written in such a way that white is the default (or the “neutral”), and only those characters who are not white must be designated, in her case, she crafted a narrative within which white is not the neutral color.

Her creativity in approaching narrative structures and racial biases has me thinking about ways in which creative women might learn from her example. Her approach to “new forms” was not experimental for the sake of simply being experimental and new – it was in response to the way in which she as an individual perceived and felt reality, the passage of time.

Her approach to racial bias was to turn it on its head – refusing to allow readers to accept the ingrained belief that one race is the standard and the rest are the “other.”
Women are also forced, in almost all realms, to accept “other” status, so I am wondering a lot about how the gender default might be likewise shattered in literature and visual art, ways in which we might insist that no single viewpoint should comprise a standard/neutral/default.

Thinking on these things leads my mind again to thoughts of new forms themselves. I’ve been thinking a lot about collaborative forms and forms involving the spoken word….who knows where this train of thought might take me?

How might women shatter the white male “default” viewpoint in literature? Or has it already been shattered? What female authors do you think have approached the task in successful ways? Any ideas on new art forms? Which women have inspired you?

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