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Eyes On The Prize

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Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth and The Autograph Man, is on a roll this September, and it's bringing her back to SoCal. Not only is she going to be in Los Angeles for An Evening with Zadie Smith at 826 LA on October 2nd (details coming to you as soon as we get them), not only is her third book, On Beauty, coming out September 13th, she's on the Booker Prize shortlist. She's unlikely to win - Julian Barnes is leading the field with the bookies - but the recognition is well deserved.

We love Smith for her verbose, slangy, overflowing style, her zany but heartbroken characters, and her novels full of accident and incident. However, her skyrocketing success for White Teeth made her an easy target, and her sophomore novel, The Autograph Man, was skewered by snarky critics. You can hardly talk about a comeback for an author whose profile has always been as high as hers, but we hope this is going to be a critical turning point for her.

It's a good time for Smith to get some better PR. She's taken the opportunity to be quoted as publicly bashing England. Not surprisingly, some snarks are already feeding. The Guardian reports that "while the Observer called it "exceptionally accomplished", Peter Kemp, the Sunday Times' chief fiction reviewer instead described it as "inconsequential" and "self-indulgent"." We'll be the judge of that, as soon as we get to read it.

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If, like us, you can't wait another second for Smith's third novel, you can appease yourself with her long interview in last month's Believer with Ian McEwan. Both authors talk craft and inspiration, and stay away from tawdrier concerns like critics. Read it and be inspired. And by the way, we're very sad that he didn't get Bookered himself for Saturday.

Smith is one of two women on the shortlist - Ali Smith is the other, for The Accidental. Also in the running are Julian Barnes for Arthur and George, Sebastian Barry for A Long Long Way, John Banville for The Sea, and Kazuo Ishiguro for Never Let Me Go. LAIST will be reviewing all of these over the next month. Odds are that Julian Barnes is going to take home this year's Booker for Arthur and George, but Zadie Smith is running third and there's always room for an upset, especially if On Beauty pulls in a strong reader and critic response. The winner will be announced October 10th. Gentlemen, start your engines.