We’ve asked it before and we’ll ask it again: what’s with the number 37?
In the first, Visitation section of NW, chapter 11 is followed by chapter 37 and then chapter 12.
And here we get some clues: “Lying in bed next to a girl she loved, years ago, discussing the number 37. Dylan singing. The girl had a theory that 37 has a magic about it, we’re compelled towards it. Websites are dedicated to the phenomenon. The imagined houses found in cinema, fiction, painting and poetry – almost always 37. Asked to choose a number at random: usually 37. Watch for 37, the girl said, in our lotteries, our game shows, our dreams and jokes, and Leah did, and Leah still does … Number 37 Ridley Avenue is being squat. Squatted? The front door is boarded up … What would she do with 37 lives!”
So is there anything to this 37 theory? Or is it just because Zadie Smith is about to turn 37 (on October 25) and it’s some sort of mid-life crisis? Was there something in a Bob Dylan song that prompted the conversation in the novel? (I don’t know my Dylan well enough, but I bet there are plenty of you out there who do. That’s in the very nature of being a Dylan fan.)
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about 37.Or more obsessively. Perhaps Leah – Smith? – should read this and get a grip. Or maybe this is what she’s getting at. There’s this, too. And good grief, once you get started … More scientifically. More madly. (Mr Rock Talk is, you will note, a bachelor.)
Anyhow, chapter 15 is followed by chapter 37 (again) and then chapter 16. And hold on a minute, what’s that between chapters 17 and 18? Yes, that’s right … And ending the first section, after chapter 23, there it is again.
In the Host section, there is 24. The number 37 – 37 in this case being the number of the bus to Camden Lock. And – oh the wag – there is a No 36 and a No 38 but wouldn’t you know it no No 37.
Doubtless there are many more references than this – just as the Dylan reference above and the Amy Winehouse one Megan Dunn noted on Friday eluded my attempts to pin down all the music in the novel – but it’s late and I’ve got paint to watch dry.
Coincidentally, for those who still believe in concidence, in New Zealand the novel is priced at $37.
For the last, NSFW word on the subject …