The Modern World - Zadie Smith, Modest First Novelist
Moseley, Merritt, The World and I
Zadie Smith is 24 years old. She grew up in Willesden, in north London, the daughter of a Jamaican mother and a considerably older English father, who are now divorced. She confounded expectations at her secondary school by attending King's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1997. More important than her degree was the novel she wrote in her final year. On the basis of a hundred-page sample, she was taken on by agent Andrew Wylie. There was enormous interest in the book, and Hamish Hamilton eventually became her publisher. Rumors of her advance place it at *250,000 ($390,000).
The novel was published to strong and positive reviews, though some of them were patronizing, referring to her, for instance, as an "ethnically interesting" writer from "humble beginnings." Alain de Botton ruefully declared that Smith has the "perfect media image (young, female, mixed-race and state school educated)," but media image is irrelevant to the quality of the work. Salman Rushdie, who is sometimes (though misleadingly) identified as her mentor, praised the book. It has been sold to publishers in eight countries, and BBC1 has recently announced plans to film a *5 million series from it. …