Zadie Smith, recorded, on recording

This is an excerpt of a conversation with the writer Ashley C. Ford at a Greenlight Bookstore event at St. Joseph's College, Brooklyn. The subject is (broadly) social media.

"I was in Germany recently, and it was a book party with a lot of younger people in it, like people in their twenties, and I noticed -- it's become more intense with the years -- people in their twenties will enter a room and then perform at you, quite radically.

"Their faces are doing all these things, they tell all these jokes, they do the whole thing. And then they leave, because they don't want to get to the bit where..." [Laughter.]

"It was so odd. It wasn't as if they had somewhere else to be, it was that they couldn''s hard to maintain that. And they want to get away, and post the pictures, and discuss the party, but not really be at the party, with the chance that, for a moment, they might get boring or I might get bored of them, or the conversation might extend in some other direction.

"That I find's quite comic to be around it, sometimes. Just the intensity of it. That pitch of endless japing, and comedy, and just...I feel very boring, sometimes, when I'm talking to them, because I just don't, I can't, keep it up.

"It's also, I guess, just a personal feeling of...I can't describe it. I also don't take photographs, I never have, way before this social media explosion. I just don't do it. I don't have a phone, and I don't have a camera. I don't have any photos of my children, apart from the ones my husband has taken. I don't know why that is. It's just something in me. It's not that I don't love them! [Laughter.]

"I don't need, I don't want the record. The record, to me, is...I find it quite painful. My experience of photographs, from my childhood, is that they're so sad. Looking at people who are gone, or died, or old, or moved away. I find them very melancholy. I like to have a few, and Nick has printed out a few, and we have them on the door, but the endless record...I can't really take it. I don't know whether I'm just weak. [Laughter.]

"I want to just be in my stream of time. I don't want a permanent record of everything."