James Wood and Zadie Smith were doing battle in the sky

Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:

Morgan Writing I had a dream, which was not all a dream. James Wood and Zadie Smith were doing battle in the sky. James was in silver armor and upon it the starlight did twinkle so. Zadie was in flowing white gowns. Her face was aglow with what I can only describe as a honey radiance. Still, I could see her freckles, which, I recall, pleased me to no end even as the terrible battle raged on and on. Twice, James smote her a heavy blow. Twice, Zadie raised herself up and hurled herself back upon him with swirling gowns and not an infrequent flash of thigh. Then the heavens went dark again and these two titans were seen to retire, he to one side of the galaxy and she to another. I thought I saw them both smile as the dream dissolved and the reality of a new day roused me from this nocturnal emanation.

James was mean to Zadie once in the real world. Without rehashing the whole thing, he accused her of laziness and self-absorption, of silly tricks and meager powers of concentration. He described what she — along with a few other young writers — was doing as Hysterical Realism. That now-famous piece in The Guardian included these devastating sentences:

This kind of realism is a perpetual motion machine that appears to have been embarrassed into velocity. Stories and sub-stories sprout on every page. There is a pursuit of vitality at all costs. Recent novels by Rushdie, Pynchon, DeLillo, Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith and others have featured a great rock musician who played air guitar in his crib (Rushdie); a talking dog, a mechanical duck and a giant octagonal cheese (Pynchon); a nun obsessed with germs who may be a reincarnation of J Edgar Hoover (DeLillo); a terrorist group devoted to the liberation of Quebec who move around in wheelchairs (Foster Wallace); and a terrorist Islamic group based in North London with the silly acronym Kevin (Smith).

This was in the early autumn of 2001, the heady days just after the 9/11 attacks when everyone felt that the world had changed somehow and that the frivolity of the recent past just wouldn't do. Zadie took the criticism standing up.

More here.