I am so glad I graduated from college with Zadie Smith in my library. I discovered Smith in my freshman year when an ex boy-friend had suggested her novel White Teeth. I was floored by her words. I’ve taken to the author like an older sister. Her writing is sophisticated, well researched, complicated, and through all that there’s a deep honest soul. Her characters are people I know and their situations are deeply familiar. What’s even more fascinating about her work is the fact that she writes from a perspective fairly foreign to me, that of a biracial british woman–a fact she embraces elegantly. At the beginning of this month I made it a goal to dedicate a considerable amount of time to reading her complete works. Nearly finished, I’m emerging enlightened, amused, and deeply inspired.While reading, I found myself wondering what if these books were serving as notes for a perfume, and that perfume created in the hopes of emoting her writing career…what would that perfume smell like?
Smith is a scholarly artist. Attempting to capture the essence of her writing is a laughable task, simply because it’s nearly impossible. Her writings are too elaborate to be anything but the novels and essays that they are, hence their existence in those forms. When reading On Beauty I kept associating lavender and sandalwood with that novel in my mind. While reading her essay collection I found my mind attacking basil and tomato leaves, especially during her essay about Their Eyes Were Watching God. Overall I think of lemon verbena and watermelon when I think of Smith. She’s vibrant and aggressive, but familiar and sweet. Out of her writings there are three quotes that I keep returning to in my mind (in fact one of which I printed and hung on my wall above my writing desk). They present the perfect survey of her writing and the themes and ideas with which she deals. They also make for the perfect basis for note categories.
The top notes:
“For reasons that are obscure to me, those qualities that we cherish in our artists we condemn in our politicians.” -On Changing my Mind (Essays)
We should lead with some excitement. Her essay collection is bold, funny, and covers a wide range of pop culture, literature, and the things that are important to her. She writes in many different styles and maintains her usual controlled witty voice throughout. Lemon verbena, blood orange, and pepper. It’s a strange mix of spice and fruit, and I think she’d be okay with that.
The middle notes:
“Any woman who counts on her face is a fool.” -On Beauty
Well, I must warn those new to Smith, she has a way of telling you about yourself. Throughout her writing you will run into these sassy proclamations about the many facets of culture. This honest depth to her writing is one of the biggest attributes that keeps me engaged. Rosemary, tomato leaf, jasmine, and english marigold. Each has distinctive aromatic qualities that would combat each other creating something new in the fallout.
The base notes:
“She wants to end properly, like a good sentence.”- The Autograph Man
Every once in a while you come across a line, a lyric, or a quote that you swear came straight out of your own heart. Smith’s work is littered with heart wrenching lines that had my head nodding in agreement, or I’d be sighing in relief, and of course smiling in validation. Gardenia, tuberose, neroli, and finally musk. Base notes are crucial as they are the strongest notes. Smith puts as much effort in her first word as she does her last word and these notes are relentlessly beautiful.
I’d call this fragrance A Good Sentence because I’d hope it did for the nose what a good sentence can do for the soul, as Smith’s writing has done for mine.
*Thanks for reading,