If writing saved your life…

by tobybee

About 10 years ago I bought a copy of Nathan Englander’s For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. It was about a year after I finished high school (at a Jewish school) and I bought it without realising that the author was a former religious Orthodox Jew – I bought it for the cover (sad but true). In the last few years I’ve returned to the work of Englander with a new appreciation, and that appreciation is enhanced by this conversation with Zadie Smith (whose On Beauty is one of my favourite books). Both of these writers, as is evident from the discussion they have here, are deeply interested in (writing about) difference. They explore the intersections between peoples and worlds, wondering about what brings us to engage with Others. And they talk about how they write about themselves, even when they’ve entered the world of being a writer in order to – in part – escape the worlds they came from. I was amused by this: for all my critique of the Jewish community, and my desire to assert my difference, in my own research and writing it is unfailing the Jewish community that I turn to…

Anyway, have a watch and listen to this for discussions of all manner of things to do with writing and life. It’s quite great. (via Guernica Magazine: “Nathan Englander begins his conversation with Zadie Smith by recalling the two novelists’ first encounter, at the Capri Festival “ten thousand years ago,” and the visible reverence Smith showed for David Foster Wallace, who, along with Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides, was also in attendance. In the conversation that follows, the two discuss the heralded Infinite Jest author (as well as Saul Bellow, George Eliot, and James Baldwin) and topics ranging from seeing yourself as other to morality in writing. The conversation took place at the School of Visual Arts’ intimate Silas Theatre in Manhattan. Hosted by Matawi, proceeds from the event went to benefiting the organization’s Dadaab Young Women’s Scholarship Initiative, which increases access to educational opportunity for refugee women and girls on the Kenyan/Somalian border.” hattip to meanjin)

Nathan Englander talks with Zadie Smith at the Matawi Fundraiser from Guernica Magazine on Vimeo.

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