Named and Shamed: Zadie Smith’s ‘Swing Time’ and an Author’s Power to Define the Past

“Elegance attracted me,” Zadie Smith’s unnamed narrator says in her new novel, Swing Time. “I liked the way it hid pain.”

By that measure, she would approve of her own artfully constructed narrative. Flickering between the distant and more recent past, she chronicles her relationships with three women: Her activist-turned-backbench MP mother; her popstar-philanthropist boss, Aimee; and her childhood best friend, Tracey, whose preternatural tap dancing skills are subsumed by paternal absence and a foundering mother.

Swing Time is suffused with discomfiting illustrations of the dubious metrics by which we measure ourselves and others: sex, status, race, talent, and money. But its central concern is power — how it is acquired, what it can buy, and how it is spent. And in this way, Swing Time is a story about writing itself, and the inherent power play of telling other people’s stories without their consent.

Read the rest of Elizabeth’s article on the Huffington Post.

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