Marian Keyes praised by Zadie
LARISSA NOLAN AWARD-WINNING literary heavyweight Zadie Smith has hailed Irish chick-lit novelist Marian Keyes as "one of the most important feminists" in modern writing.
In an extraordinary vote of confidence, Zadie, 31, publicly praised her fellow author in a letter to be printed in the forthcoming edition of British women's magazine Marie Claire.
Even though both writers are signed up to the same publishing house, Penguin, her comments have surprised those in literary circles, where there is often a deep snobbery among the highbrow set towards their more lowbrow counterparts.
The internationally-renowned writer complimented Marian Keyes on her multimillion international sales and her ability to reach out to women all over the world.
Smith, whose novel On Beautywon this year's Orange Prize for Fiction, also said she wished there had been a writer like Keyes around as a comfort when she was an angst-ridden teenager.
In an open letter to Ms Keyes, she wrote: "Whether or not you fancy the label 'feminist', I think you're one of the more important ones, because you have a massive audience - much bigger than mine.
"I remember being 14 and reading glossy magazines, and feeling lost and depressed and insecure and miserable. I wish there had been a writer like you in there back then." She added that she found Marian Keyes's writing "moving and brave".
Smith was inspired to make her feelings known after reading a piece on empowerment written by Keyes, a columnist in the magazine.
Keyes is regarded as a pioneer of the chick-lit genre and has sold 2.5m copies of her books, which include Watermelon, Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Marriedand her latest best-seller, Anybody out There? Her wit, natural ability to tell a story and difficult past - she is a recovering alcoholic - have marked her out as the more intelligent choice for the discerning reader of women's fiction.
The Limerick-born, Dublin-based writer said she was "surprised and honoured" when she read Zadie Smith's public appreciation of hertalents.
Marian said: "I have thanked her for writing. She's such an intellectual and so talented. I have read her books and I'm a huge fan, even though they're very different from mine."
Smith recently found herself in hot water in her home country after criticising the "stupidity, madness and vulgarity" of England. However, she has spoken often of her love affair with Ireland and the Irish. She is married to fellow writer Nick Laird, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, whom she met while they were both at Cambridge University together.
In an interview with the Sunday Independentlast year, she said: "All women in my family have a thing for Irishmen. Of course I fancied him when I first saw him."
Laird is also a successful author and poet - his novel Utterly Monkeywon the Rooney Prize For Irish Fiction in 2005.
Zadie's open letter to Marian Keyes will be published in the September edition of Marie Clairemagazine, which is out now. The monthly magazine is published in 25 countries and sells 15 million copies per edition.