‘Just Right’ is an extract of a novella that I am not going to write. Another book – set in the future instead of the past – recently got in the way, consigning Donovan Kendal and the rest of his family to a desktop file called ‘Unfinished Things.’ There should be a special term for abandoned stories, and another for the strange limbo in which their occupants live. Poor Donovan Kendal – neither wholly real nor entirely fictional, stuck in a long ago New York, but with half the streets unmapped and his childhood tapering off into a few, sad notes and then a blank page, and then another. He was meant to get from Washington Square in 1973 to Hurricane Sandy in a hundred and twenty pages. What remains comes from the beginning of his journey, before he or I knew he wasn’t going to get any further.
Portrait of Zadie Smith by Nadav Kander (based on a photograph © Dominique Nabokov). Smith was unable to attend the shoot due to pregnancy.
For more about the author, including critical perspectives and in-depth biographies, visit the British Council’s web pages on