Tag Archives: Zadie Smith

Fictional Consciousness

In her essay “Fail Better,” Zadie Smith suggests that writing style is not so much a matter of syntax and word choice, but the expression of a writer’s personality, their soul even, a reflection of how he or she interacts with the world. … I love this essay, but I always wonder what Smith might say about first-person narrators who are different from the writers who create them. I wonder what happens to style in those cases, and how it might be defined. Is every fictional consciousness a mere variation, an extension, of the writer’s consciousness? Can a writer’s consciousness, his true style, emerge when the words on the page are the words of some imagined person? If the self is a pesky, slippery thing that can only be revealed in glimpses, what happens when a writer chooses to subsume that self in another, fictional, self?

Edan Lepucki