She’s the embodiment of multicultural Britain according to some journalist somewhere; an authentic upper middle class ‘voice
of the streets’ who has been anatomising the fertile North-West London scene for over two decades in a series of sprawling,
innovatively empty books that briefly fascinated readers everywhere. And all this time while described as “one of the world’s
most beautiful women” and “a right bit of exotic totty” by crusty men in the decrepit UK publishing patriarchy.
But are cracks beginning to show in Zadie Smith’s world-conquering lifestyle? What’s been happening to the public persona and private life of a
woman who once revolutionised everything that could be done with a hundred characters and several implausible or second-hand plotlines? A lady
author who churns out critically-acclaimed novels no one in their right mind would want to read more than once?
Home Defence only asks, in light of Smith’s reaction to Karl Ove Knausgard’s six-book opus of quotidianism; ‘My Struggle’. Herein The Scandinavian Proust records his daily
routine within thousands of pages, including one memorably lengthy section that describes how much sugar he sprinkled on his cornflakes one September morning. Gripping,
lengthy and suitably interminable. For all ages.
For anyone who missed the tweet in question, those 140 characters or less which captured the imagination of the British literary scene, here’s that micro-blog in full, wherein
Zadie twats about Knausgard’s work:
‘It’s unbelievable. I just read 200 pages of it and I need the next volume like crack.’
Such an endorsement, from one of the leading tastemakers of the 21st century, isn’t simply a marketing man’s wet dream, an
attention-grabbing advertorial ploy and a sequence of words printed on the jacket of every single one of Knausgard’s books ever published in
Britain. No, this isn't innocent musing to ensure massive crossover success for a series of works that are basically 3,600 pages depicting a grumpy Norwegian bloke bitching
about his children, remembering things then going to the shops.
This Tweet contains a coded warning.
Take Smith’s words at face value and you might be cheesed off. After all, Zadie comes from a comfortable background and has never
had much in the way of negative drug experiences. Nor has she ever lost anyone close to addiction, or overdoses so, well…
Surely this groundbreaking genius wouldn’t trivialise the rock and the damage done? She couldn’t be so foolish to draw lazy comparisons between her gimme-gimme-gimme
impatience for a translated book, and the kind of physiological craving that destroys lives, families, even whole communities?
It couldn’t happen, I have faith. That would be horribly offensive, like saying: “I need the next chapter like Peaches Geldof needed smack.”
On establishing Smith could never be so morally suspect, there was only one conclusion left to draw: Zadie must know her way around the crack pipe. But how
can concerned citizens like us, with our profound sense of moral responsibility to the artistic community, prove it? More importantly, how might we convince
Smith to seek help, before she produces more of what an uncaring society would dub ‘crack babies’?
Zadie’s swotty image and award-winning career don’t immediately hint at the instability and psychosis of the addict, so HDUK decided to start our investigation at
the beginning, visiting Hampstead School in suburban Willesden. Smith attended this establishment in the eighties and nineties, and it was here we spoke to her old
P.E.-slash-Geography teacher, Grexit Pasquale:
“Zadie always behaved like a nice girl, and she was far too well-to-do to go near ‘street drugs’.” Mrs Pasquale recalled over undrinkable coffee in the staff room. “Smith’s parents got divorced while she was attending our school, but no one noticed her rebel. I did subsequently read Zadie admit to smoking a number of what they call ‘fatty-boom-batties’ late in her teens, and as every politician knows, pot is a stepping stone to harder substances, so I wouldn’t count anything out.”
The evidence mounts up. Yet with this Orange Prize Winner independently wealthy, ever since she received a six-figure advance for ‘White Teeth’ on graduating Cambridge,
and crack currently just fifty quid a gram (or “twin ponies” in street slang), funding her massive habit isn’t a problem. And all this as research in the scientific community
confirms ‘the rock’ is an ideal stimulant for jet-setting authors, particularly those with homes in London’s elite Queen’s Park and central New York City.
Fretting through agonies of horror and worry, Home Defence suffered a reoccurring nightmare in which Zadie spends sleepless nights stumbling through inner city ghettos; a
pitiful junkie so desperate for a fix she turns tricks for drug contacts, shadowy criminals enlisted to feed her bottomless need. On waking, HDUK knew we had to act.
Employing an NYC private eye on retainer, we flew out to Manhattan and staked out Smith’s family home, desperate to get the woman help before it was too late.
Our shamus, who called himself Roy, confirmed that Zadie could very easily conceal her crack use from friends and family, so that even her husband, the Capitalist poet Nick Laird, would suspect nothing (particularly if he’s not on Twitter).
“This is a deadly game of diminishing returns,” P.I. Roy (right) intoned like some kind of straight-to-DVD voiceover, even as we sat in his car eating peanuts and watching the Smith
household through a long-range lens. “I’ve seen it a million times before, with big-shot movie stars or purveyors of high-end book-group litfic. A user becomes obsessed with
recapturing the dopamine buzz that blew their head off in the first place, so she spends more and more time ‘chasing the dragon’. But the dragon’s already fled, razing whole
neighbourhoods to the ground with its fiery breath on the way out.”
At this point I objected that Roy had stretched his metaphor too far, and I wasn’t paying him a hundred dollars a day plus expenses to spout
gibberish at me, but before I could Smith emerged with her children, Kit and Harvey, along with their nanny. It was a shocking moment, the
bestselling author crazy-eyed and furtive as she scanned the street like a fugitive, for reporters perhaps, or those cops she feared were
coming, in a bout of cocaine-fuelled paranoia.
We tailed them to Central Park, at which point Zadie ditched her family and dived into some bushes. This took place near a spot Roy claimed was an ‘open air drug market’,
somewhere you can buy everything from Quaaludes to Laughing Gas by the balloon. Unfortunately we lost Smith in the undergrowth and had to leave after Roy got bitten on
the pinkie by a squirrel. But with my suspicions confirmed, I now knew what had to be done. It was time to formulate a plan.
My bulging dossier of tweets, grainy photographs and personal testimonies has now been presented to Smith’s agent and publisher, along
with the experts at the UK Addiction Helpline. Between them, I’m told, there is talk of a pending ‘intervention’ which might alter the course
of our country’s foremost distaff titan of wordsmithery and get her life back on track.
I’m optimistic that, with proper help, Zadie can put this affliction behind her. But as any former crackhead will tell you, it’s a long, hard road
to rehabilitation. Also, they have to wait for someone with a similar level of cultural cachet and comparable experiences to act as Smith’s
long-term sponsor, if she’s ever going to get clean. It'll be a while until the ex-addict in question is available, as he’s currently
pretending to be both Kray Twins and that takes a lot out of you. Still, Tom Hardy’s a lot better at ‘the acting’ than that bloke out of
Spandau Ballet, so maybe Zadie’s future is rosy after all.