It’s time to return to books. Not those bound things that are basically articles put together based on some sort of logic filled with words academics put together to gain prestige, position, or both (don’t get me wrong, I want to see my name in one of those things one day). I want to return to reading where I forget the work of the activity itself. I think I’ve been bogged down in theory for so long, I forgot that I actually love to read and there are so many good stories still waiting to be read. I spent my morning in the library (sounds so studious, until I write that it’s the first time since December). Then, on my way home, disinterested in most of my normal dinner reads, I picked up one of my books again and got lost in Zadie Smith’s London for an hour or so. Now, I feel much more inspired to provide a close-reading analysis than some more theory review. It’s easier, too…
NW is divided into four intertwined stories with the titles “visitation,” “guest,” “host,” and “crossing.” Each story has subtitles in a different style. Leah Hanwell’s story is in simple numbers. Felix Copper’s short life is divided into segments of a map, “NW6,” “(WI),” and “NW6,” Natalie Blake is numbers and subject titles, quite correct but also fragmented glimpses that try to account for as much of her as possible. Finally, comes Nathan Bogle and another “visitation.” When Nathalie Blake/Keisha leaves her home, she wanders and we read how she goes up “Willesden Lane to Kilburn High Road,” and then “Shoot up the Green to Fortune Green,” traveling over NW. The way space is used in the novel is interesting and definitely worth a return visit, especially in light of some things I read recently in History, Memory and Migration, but wait, I wasn’t going to go into that, today. And talking about those titles wasn’t important at all to get into right now.
There are a lot of intermedial references in NW. We start off with Leah Hanwell considering a line she hears on the radio, repeating it over and over in her mind, hearing a neighbor talk on the phone, thinking about the gloss on a magazine, and papers falling, causing “World events and property and film and music” to lie in the grass (4). This is the internet age, the characters have computers, email addresses, chat spaces, and yet there’s an old school feel. They still get their news from papers, hear about it from one another via word of mouth…
The section that caught my eye for this blog post was chapter “123. Bye noe.” It consists of a web chat between Leah and Natalie/Keisha (there’s actually no specificity of the name, we only get the last name, so I don’t know if it’s Natalie or Keisha who makes this appearance, though it could be Keisha since she’s always Keisha online). Leah is the one who instigates the conversation, her type is bold and Natalie’s/Keisha’s (I’m going to guess that it’s a mix of both, since there’s Leah’s friend and the lawyer in this conversation) is not bolded. None follows capitalization convention, unless you count the fact that Leah cap locks her words when she’s mad and N/K cap locks the moments that are sarcastic. Finally, as far as the medium itself goes, we get the impression of overlapped generation of text, as each interrupts the other’s sentence throughout.
whats happening to
Leah is responding to “cant believe you getting hitched” and N/K is already asking her question.
I notice a few significant things about this conversation.
First of all, it starts with Leah acknowledging her hesitancy to download something, I’m guessing its the program to private message. Both are at work, Leah working from a work computer and N/K probably on her phone. They joke and banter, and then Leah leads into the news she wants to share by asking N/K to locate herself in the time space continuum “free may sixth?” and then, after some silly then serious (self-acknowledgement) on N/K’s part, “lady jesus I am getting married” (243). Leah is excited to tell her friend how it happened, why, how she’s doing it to please her fiance, her mother, “It’s what people do innit,” N/K is kind of distracted by work, wants to know if this means Leah is pregnant or will get pregnant, and then has a question for Leah that is confusing the first time one reads it, but then makes more sense after returning to it later. The question is never actually stated, Leah just answers it because she “iz mind reader for realz.” Something about having to give up people and “when all else fails: http://www.adultswatchingadults.com” (245).
Side note: if NW was an ebook and the hyperlink actually worked, would visiting the site be part of reading the book? Future hypertext fiction questions, my friends!
At any rate, the reference to the hyperlink is something that leads to a sort of climax for the whole novel, and I find it interesting that this moment is instigated by a web chat. We get the impression that N/K doesn’t answer for a while (and never responds directly to that), and then the conversation is over with “bye noe.” Not being a NW native, or even with the British slang, I had to look up “noe.” It’s basically an awesome, wonderful person. Someone you’re happy to be with/around. I guess that’s a fond sign off for the two of them, but I don’t know why Leah puts her “bye noe” in single quotes…
This is the point where I should get into explaining the significance of the intermedial reference (that is, why did this conversation happen in chat, not real time, and how successful is Smith in creating the impression of a chat room? (for example, the characters chose to capitalize their “I”s or use the single quote for the contraction or use txt spk). But, it’s also the moment where this gets hard and it’s 2240 on a Thursday and I already did some decent amount of work today, so bye.
Thanks for reading.
Work Cited: Smith, Zadie. NW. New York: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.