Reflections on Working Out and On Zadie Smith

Exercising didn’t go so well yesterday and the day before yesterday. I didn’t have much time so I had to do a very quick weightlifting session at the gym on Tuesday. I’ve been stalling on my lifts lately. I need to consume more protein, which will help get over this hump I’m at. I don’t say much about lifting right now because I feel my lifts are unimpressive and I’m just trying not to lose strength. Once my schedule settles, I’ll figure out a training plan to get back to gaining strength.

Because of the lovely turn in weather this past week, I thought yesterday would be perfect for going out on a long hard run. I love fall weather. I always have, but it’s rare in California to have the crisp cool air and bright blue sky greeting you in the mornings. This weather, this feeling are things that I greatly appreciate about the East Coast. Cooler weather and the lack of humidity are the perfect ingredients for a great running day. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for me. I quit after 5.2 miles at a 9:26 pace. Heartburn was making it difficult to continue. I had eaten an apple before the run because I needed a little something. I thought an apple would be easy on my stomach. Apparently not so if I go running straight afterward.

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Zadie Smith

Yesterday evening I attended a book reading by Zadie Smith. A dear friend had introduced me to her work several years ago. I read White Teeth and On Beauty and enjoyed both for the most part (I was a bit dissatisfied with On Beauty‘s ending. Not because of its ambiguous nature, but I felt that particular ending was tired and overdone). Still, I recommend both books to readers who are interested in issues of race/ethnicity, class, and society.

Smith’s newest novel, NW, was greeted and lauded by critics. I was really excited to learn that Smith would be giving a reading at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. The reading started at 7 pm, but I showed up a quarter past 6. About ten people were already there. B&N regularly holds readings, so the 4th floor is set up to accommodate all the eager fans. There’s a stage with a lectern and a table and a chair for the signing later. I got a seat in the third row close to the center.

It was an immense pleasure to listen to the melodious voice of Zadie Smith, bringing life to her characters. You could tell when she was really into it because she became her characters. The twitch in the face, snap of the fingers, fidgeting of her stance conveyed the unsaid feelings and angst of these people clumsily explaining the difficult emotions and thoughts that they had.

There was a question-and-answer session afterward. My favorite answer from Smith came from this question:

Audience: Do you still feel nervous and anxious while you’re writing? And how do you deal with it?

Zadie Smith: Of course, I still do. If anything, it gets worse!

Audience laughs in appreciation.

Zadie Smith: How do I deal with it? Well, when I’m not pregnant, I drink an awful lot.

Roars of laughter.

She then went on to talk about how she appreciated having a job (she teaches Creative Writing at NYU) and that having other things to do (family, other writing, etc) help distract her. And then there are moments where the writing goes really well and right and she relishes the fun that writing is.

I stuck around to get my copy of NW signed. I got a couple minutes to talk to her and tell her how I got introduced to her work and the joy I got from reading them. When she said, “Thank you,” I could tell that she really meant it and appreciated that a reader enjoyed her work. Zadie Smith was truly gracious and I’m thrilled that I had this chance to hear and meet her.

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