On Zadie Smith

First things first: I am a huge fan of Zadie Smith and just a few months ago I greatly enjoyed reading her latest novel Swing time.

So, when I saw and article in the guardian titled Have you been paying the hair-and-makeup tax? You need Zadie Smith’s 15-minute rule, I was intrigued. And later disappointed. Apparently Zadie Smith limits her 7-year old daughter’s mirror time to 15 minutes and explains this to the child with the following words:

“I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this. Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a shit if you waste an hour and a half doing your makeup.”

I was quite disappointed by the simplistic, binary gender images that were invoked here. What kind of image of gender roles is Zadie Smith transferring on to her daughter? It may very well be that Ms Smith’s son doesn’t give a shit and just throughs on any shirt he can find. These days, we know there is more to gender than boys want to play outside and girls want to look pretty. But it particularly startled me that a woman like Zadie Smith, who writes to elaborately and with a great eye for subtle details about race and gender issues, falls for the binary gender construction when it comes to her own family. I can’t believe that she reinforces the constructions through her daughter.

But, as I said, I read the article a few days ago, I was disappointed and a bit shocked – and then I moved on. Only today did I get aware, that I was not the only Personen disagreement with Zadie Smith’s statement. I read about the reactions here. Unfortunately, nobody seemed to be concerned with the conservative gender role of boys do that and girls do this, but took offense with the fact that Zadie Smith was too beautiful to be concerned with makeup and therefore had no right to speak about the issue. Seriously? That is your feminist rebuke?

So, these were my thoughts on the discussion. And what are yours?




Das Einzige und Wichtigste, was ich in meinem Studium der Geisteswissenschaften gelernt habe, ist: Das Aushalten der Ambiguität der Welt.

Life purpose or what?

First of all I wanted to share this post that I read today.

The author starts of my dismissing the term “life purpose” that we are all getting so fussed about. It is a big and lofty expression that really means – nothing. At best you can laugh about it and dismiss it as well, at worst you are frightened by the weight of finding your “life purpose”.

The question, he proposes, we should ask ourselves is the following:

What can I do with my time that is important?

He then leads you through seven questions that will help you define what is important to you. Hopefully it helps. We live in a time when list making and giving you the 20 things you need to do in your 20ies and the 25 relationship advises you need have down by the age of 25 are all over the place. It seems people look for numbers, for countable and measurable steps and advice on how to live their lives. But I’m rambling. I actually thought about those seven questions and I have come up answers to a few of them. I invite you to do the same. Maybe you will be surprised by what you learn about yourself.

1. What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?

I will more than likely not become rich by what I do. I will not earn as much as my peers, who went to university with me.

2. What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?

I think the very short answer is, that I do not read enough and that I stopped writing fiction. (I only took it back up this November for my very first NaNoWriMo.) I read so much when I was younger. I took a book home from the school library and read it in an afternoon, then take it back to the library and pick up another one. My teacher in elementary school at first didn’t believe I had read the book. I started about 5 to 10 novels. I didn’t get beyond the first few chapters on any of them before I lost interest and started a new story. But when I got older… I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was just puberty hitting my, but I always remember things in “before my Dad died” and “after my Dad died”. So, to me, it seems like I stopped being able to really indulge in a novel when my Dad died.

3. What makes you forget to eat and poop?

Same answer. Reading and writing. I would add working, if it is work that I enjoy in some way. Like teaching.

5. How are you going to save the world?

Through teaching and learning. Education is something I am really passionate about. I want to make education available to as many people as possible. I believe that e-learning is the way to go. But I am also very passionate about engaging with individual students on a face-to-face basis. It makes me really happy to see that they are LEARNING something new.

6. Gun to your head, if you had to leave the house all day, every day, where would you go and what would you do?

Literarily, the first thing that came to my mind was: the library. I mean, I seems natural, since I have spent so much time in libraries from my early childhood on up until I finished my Master’s thesis. For some periods, I literarily spent all day, every day in a library. What I would do? Learn, Read, Write.

7. If you knew, you were going to day one year from today, what would you do and how would you want to be remembered?

What would I do? This is too big of a question to be answered that quickly. What would I do for a whole year. Probably some travelling.
Being remembered? If I only helped to make one person’s life easier and better, I am ok.

What’s in a name?

Today I would like to introduce my readers to the meaning of my blog name and title. This is part of blogging101, even though the assignment was already due last week or so. The acutal assignment was to create a title and tagline for your blog. Or “if you’re already thrilled with your title or you want to do more, feel free to publish a post, too! Let readers know what inspired your title and tagline”. I am. So, here we go!

vain [veɪn], adjective
that does not prodce the result you want; having no success
syn.: useless, unsuccessful
idm.: in vain -> without success
etym.: dervied from the latin word vanus meaning empty, without substance

wright [ˈraīt], noun
a worker skilled in the manufacture especially of wooden objects; A builder or creator of something
later it became any occupational worker; often used with other words, such as in playwright (here the two words combine to indicate that a person creates a play crafting words together)

What I like about my title is the combination of words. The ancient word of wright as a creator or a shaper of things (words) really speaks to me. I see writing as a craft. I combine words and with them create something new or change the meaning altogether (puns, word play). As such I like the coincidental homophone with “write” in wright. The origin of words their history and literary history are also very important to me.

The prefix vain really says that I don’t write this blog for a purpose other than to write and share beautifully crafted words with the world. This hints at the concept of l’art pour l’art. Art does not have to have a meaning or serve a purpose or anything really. It is for everybody to enjoy and find their own meaning in it. I don’t want to force it onto you. The text itself therefore is “empty” in a way, because you as a reader fill it with your meaning.

Also words can be used for all kinds of writing. The words only get their meaning in the context of a carefully crafte text. Here we are back at the craftsmanship of a writer.

I really like my title. It does not really explain what I want to do with my blog but really show it. It was by mere accident that I ended up with this title. I had something else in mind. Something allong the lines of “whywait” or “whywrite” or “vainwrite”. I think they all already existed, so I looked further and ended up with this one. I love it!

Turn back the time

When I was little the changing of the clocks twice a year was a real family event. My Mum would be the initiator to all this. She would always point out to us on Saturday night already that the change is ahead of us. On Sunday morning the usual weekend breakfast would be dominated and interrupted by the changing of the various clocks in the house. I would be asked, if I had already changed the time on the clock in my room. My Dad would be asked to take down the clock in the kitchen, because it was too high to be reached by my Mum. My Mum would go downstairs to my Grandma’s appartment and interrupt her breakfast, making sure all the clocks were changed. All this would take up most of Sunday morning because everything seemed to have forgotten how to change that alarm clock and then to set it to the right time for Monday morning. Clocks where too high up on walls, so that latter were getting necessary. Later on cell phones and computers had to be changed and – wait, where was this setting again?

Yesterday morning, however, none of this happened. And not just because I don’t live with my Mum anymore. My computer and my phone both had adjusted their clocks without even telling me. It was supposed to be a smooth transition. Only when I looked at my old analog alarm clock, I realized that something major had happened during the night. I was a little bit disappointed.