Do you think that if Nick Laird weren’t married to Zadie Smith, his new book Utterly Monkey would be reviewed in the NYT today by Kakutani? I don’t mean to disparage his writing, which I haven’t read, but they seem to reserve Kakutani for the big, writers of renown. I’m sceptical of course that they would have bothered with the review otherwise. A review might be included in the Sunday supplement, maybe in the Fiction Chronicle, but a full review from Kakutani? Forget it. But good for Laird. Kakutani likes it, though she can’t resist from mentioning his wife. “Instead, Mr. Laird – who is married to the novelist Zadie Smith – uses his radar-sharp eye for detail and ear for how regular people talk to give us an ebullient cast of characters, rendered with an idiosyncratic mixture of sympathy and wry humor.”
Marital coattails. What a deplorable tradition. Without it, we never would have had to endure the likes of Nick Lachey.
I’m also surprised that very few have remarked on the Laird-penned poetry that can be found in “On Beauty.” Frankly, I found much of it awful. Fortunately, the Laird poems (and, of course, the book’s unfortunate reliance on coincidence) aren’t enough to sink a very enjoyable novel loaded with keen observations and imagery.
It’s not that I believe his book is bad. I haven’t read it and it does sound interesting. But any other new author (new to fiction. let’s be real, poetry doesn’t get reviewed) would be relegated to a brief mention somewhere, possibly Entertainment Weekly or something if they were lucky. Most authors hope for 1 review, yet Laird gets the full Kakutani treatment.
Here’s the skinny, dudes: humans are obsessed with social status, rank, privilege, pecking order — that sort of thing.
So when you are being associated with Someone Known, a bit of the Known Person’s status will automatically rub off on you, whether you want to or not. We’re programmed that way.
It’s not that Nick Laird planned for this to happen. It’s as inevitable as day and night.