Last night I attended a lecture at Columbia University by writer Zadie Smith.
I don’t remember the last time I sat through a lecture and thought: “Genius”.
Her bio will tell you she was born in a northwest London to a Jamaican mother and a British father. Cambridge educated (Kings College), she speaks with an accent far removed from the origins of her working class upbringing but with the confidence of someone who has already lived quite a life. She is now a tenured NYU Professor of Writing.
The audience was as one can expect; full of Columbia’s Generation… (which alphabet letter are we on?). One of the questions was about the Internet’s influence on our lives. The answer made me look up her highly praised and outstanding review in The New York Review of Books of the movie The Social Network entitled Generation Why, which I highly recommend. Along with Williamn Powers’ Hamlet’s Balckberry and Jaron Lanier’s You are not a Gadget, this is essential reading for all of us trying to come to terms with our (social media) lives.
An excerpt from Smith’s review:
“When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.”
I confess not reading any of her books yet but after hearing her speak – (what a command of the English language and what wit and intellegence!) and reading the review, I have now ordered three of her titles.
Photo: Zadie Smith-Village Voice Blog