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Ali Smith Essays About Life

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Artful by Ali Smith

The incomparable Ali Smith melds the tale and the essay into a magical hybrid form, a song of praise to the power of stories in our lives

In February 2012, the novelist Ali Smith delivered the Weidenfeld lectures on European comparative literature atMore The incomparable Ali Smith melds the tale and the essay into a magical hybrid form, a song of praise to the power of stories in our lives

In February 2012, the novelist Ali Smith delivered the Weidenfeld lectures on European comparative literature at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. Her lectures took the shape of this set of discursive stories. Refusing to be tied down to either fiction or the essay form, Artful is narrated by a character who is haunted—literally—by a former lover, the writer of a series of lectures about art and literature.

A hypnotic dialogue unfolds, a duet between and a meditation on art and storytelling, a book about love, grief, memory, and revitalization. Smith’s heady powers as a fiction writer harmonize with her keen perceptions as a reader and critic to form a living thing that reminds us that life and art are never separate.

Artful is a book about the things art can do, the things art is full of, and the quicksilver nature of all artfulness. It glances off artists and writers from Michelangelo through Dickens, then all the way past postmodernity, exploring every form, from ancient cave painting to 1960s cinema musicals. This kaleidoscope opens up new, inventive, elastic insights—on the relation of aesthetic form to the human mind, the ways we build our minds from stories, the bridges art builds between us. Artful is a celebration of literature’s worth in and to the world and a meaningful contribution to that worth in itself. There has never been a book quite like it. Less

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Community Reviews

BrokenTune rated it it was amazing

over 1 year ago

"All of it? I say.
Lucky for you the ands are ampersands, you say.
You are calling my bluff, of course. I call yours back. I take the book to the tattoo parlour down Mill Road and come home, after several sessions, with exactly this tattoo. I choose to have it done in deep.
Read full review

MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it

about 4 years ago

An extended Smith short story, wrapped like bacon around the sausage of her illuminating Oxford lectures, makes up this debut non-fiction collection from the Best Living Scottish Novelist (caps mean cred). Her trope of using the second person to address an absent presence. Read full review

Stephen P rated it it was amazing

There are books which through the softness of their sound, their words dipping into portals unseen that quiver upon memory and a haze of further meanings, set me into a mode of creative inquiry. A different state of being finding anything else an intrusion while seeking s. Read full review

Teresa rated it it was amazing

almost 4 years ago

Reading this book of lectures made me want to reread Oliver Twist and since I'm not likely to do that anytime soon, I looked in my copy to see if Mudfog is mentioned or not mentioned in the very first paragraph and wondered if at the time I read it, I noticed that the Art. Read full review

Neil rated it it was amazing

My review will be just two quotes lifted out of this amazing book.

"All the time I read this book I felt it was feeding me".

"We do treat books surprisingly lightly in contemporary culture. We’d never expect to understand a piece of music on one listen, but we tend to b. Read full review

Antonomasia rated it really liked it

about 1 year ago

Recommended to Antonomasia by: I love the cover.

(Truly Madly Deeply x The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas ) + fragments of essays on literature = Artful

Just lovely! I got it because it was my favouritest book cover I’d seen in ages (as said elsewhere, I don’t like many recent covers). The content was. Read full review

Ned Rifle rated it it was ok

about 4 years ago

I saw you last night, though you are now far away. I saw you and you saw what I was reading. You said you'd seen these lectures delivered. You looked appalled when I said that I really wasn’t enjoying them, and you chided me for my ignorance before asking why. As I rifled. Read full review

Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it liked it

about 3 years ago

This book is a wee bit confusing. It is based on a series of lectures the author did at St. Anne's College at Oxford, but it is also a story of loss from the perspective of the left-behind lover of the dead lecturer. Except the author herself is the lecturer. You can see. Read full review

Judith rated it it was amazing

about 3 years ago

A blow-away book, this British novelist's 2012 Weidenfeld Lectures on comparative literature at Cambridge. A glancing sensibility, full of puns that lead to deeper thoughts in 4 lectures On Time, On Form, On Edge. For example, she asks us to consider in the Time section. Read full review

Vivek Tejuja rated it it was amazing

about 1 month ago

The more I read interesting and different forms of the novel, the more I am convinced that the book cannot die. It shouldn’t and it will not. Reading will never go out of style, and Ali Smith is one of those authors that keep proving this time and again. I started reading. Read full review

Other articles

Essay: The Go-Between by Ali Smith - Essay UK Free Essay Database

Free English Literature essays Essay: The Go-Between by Ali Smith

Human rights. A bitter, yet ironic, tale about a world we all know, but still refuse to accept or deal with. ‘The Go-Between’ is a short story about an African man who is striving for a better life, a safe life with a bright future and without the fear of financial issues. Dreaming and hoping for a better life can be good thing, but if you put your expectations too high, then it is really going to hurt when reality comes and smacks you in the face. Limbs torn off, multiple escape attempts, violent encounters. None of which sounds particularly pleasant. This short story is built upon several topics, where I believe the most important one, is Human Rights.

‘The Go-Between’ was part of a collection of short stories that were written to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The protagonist of the short story is a 33-year-old African man, who used to be a microbiologist. ‘I’m thirty-three years old.’ ‘I was a microbiologist, before.’ Now, however, he is a so-called ‘border crosser’, where his job is to help the refugees cross the border between Spain and Morocco. He is a middleman between the refugees and the French Doctors ‘ he is, as the title implies, the ‘Go-Between’.
This job has not been easy on him, and in the text we are told that he lost a piece of his ear and a finger. ‘I lost the top part of my ear on the fence. (‘) My third finger off this hand’? The fact that he does not stop doing his job, even after such horrible injuries, shows that he is a very determined person with a positive mind-set.

He is living a very unhealthy life under extremely poor conditions, which can be seen in the text where he describes himself: ‘I’m a small, slight man. I’m not a big man. I’m lean and slight.’

Furthermore he is a man of dignity. He is a proud man, and he is ashamed of his disabilities. For instance his limp, his incomplete ear, and his missing finger. This is also shown in the following excerpt from the text: ‘I’ve only a slight limp, not noticeable. I wear my hat down over my ears. I keep my hand folded so no one sees the loss in it.’

Africa is a continent that is very far behind concerning technology. This means that a lot of people in Africa live in uncertainty, they are unaware of what is happening around the world. The protagonist in this story had heard about the ‘better’ life in Spain, and he wanted that. But not only did he want to live in Spain, he had to. The living conditions were so incredibly bad back in Cameroon where he used to live that he could have died of starvation if he had not gone somewhere else. The following quote gives a quite good explanation of this: ‘Nobody leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.’ This is the reason why he seeks to help other refugees get across the border; he does not want them to live the same miserable life that he did.

The short story is written in first person where the protagonist also is the narrator. In the short story the reader becomes very involved with the protagonist’s feelings and thoughts. Sometimes throughout the story it might even seem that the protagonist is speaking directly to the reader, ‘You know what Spain is? It’s a bird’s flight from here. I don’t mean a long flight. I mean, use your eyes.’ This tells us that the short story is not structured in any particular way. Actually it is the exact opposite. The way of narrating is very chaotic and messy, which makes the story seem like a constant, flowing stream of thoughts, which certainly serves to intrigue the reader.

Regarding the language in the short story, the author uses a very simple, or even simplistic, language. The author did this because he wanted the language and the short story to be reflected in each other. For instance the short, simple sentences makes it clear to us that the protagonist does not speak English very well.

I think the tone in the short story is both a little tragic but also optimistic. For instance, as I mentioned in the beginning of this analysis, the man describes himself as a ‘small, slight man’, which is followed up by him stating ‘The Cameroon Swimmer. Philosophical Professor Me.’ This strongly indicates that the protagonist is living a tragic life, and that he has to keep a positive and happy mind-set in order to cope with reality.

He is living a life between two completely different worlds; Europe and Africa. Physically he does not belong anywhere anymore, he is stuck between two continents. This is emphasized by the title of the short story, ‘The Go-Between’, because no matter what the protagonist does, he can only go to a place in between.

With that said, I believe that Ali Smith’s intention with the story is to shine a light on the ironic fact that we are celebrating an occasion that is still so far away from deserving celebration. Her short story is an ironic observation of the lacks in executing these rights, even 60 years after they were implemented.

After reading this story you are very startled, and you get a sudden profound gratitude for living in a country where these rights are as familiar as the bike-ride to school. It is not fair that some countries are not respecting these rights, and that is what Ali Smith is telling us through ‘The Go-Between’.

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Smith Ali (EN)

Smith Ali (EN)


Woooooooo-hooooooo.Five people: four are living; three are strangers; two are sisters; one, a teenage hotel chambermaid, has fallen to her death in a dumbwaiter. But her spirit lingers in the world, straining to recall things she never knew. And one night all five women find themselves in the smooth plush environs of the Global Hotel, where the intersection of their very different fates make for this playful, defiant, and richly inventive novel. Forget room service: this is a riotous elegy, a deadpan celebration of colliding worlds, and a spirited defense of love. Blending incisive wit with surprising compassion, Hotel World is a wonderfully invigorating, life-affirming book.From the Trade Paperback edition.


From the critically acclaimed author of Hotel World comes a collection of uniquely inventive stories that thread the labyrinth of coincidence, chance, and connections missed and made.What happens when you run into Death in a busy train station? (You know hes Death because when he smiles, your cell phone goes dead.) What if your lover falls in love with a tree? Should you be jealous? From the woman pursued by a band of bagpipers in full regalia to the artist whos built a seven-foot boat out of secondhand copies of The Great Gatsby, Smiths characters are offbeat, charming, sexy, and as wonderfully complex as life itself.From the Trade Paperback edition.


Another internationally acclaimed writer contributes a fascinating, compelling reinterpretation of a myth that resonates deeply today.Ligdus and Telethusa are having a child, but they cannot afford to have a girl. Ligdus informs Telethusa that she had better hope for a boy. While this decision makes them both sad, Telethusa must/obey. She prays to Isis, but births a girl and names her Iphis, a name that suited male or female/a neutral name. She convinces everyone, including Ligdus, that Iphis is a boy.Iphis matures and falls in love with another girl, Ianthe, and is engaged for marriage, yet s/he is ruled by the sexual norms of the time: [P]ossessed by love so strange. no female wants/a female! but no learned artcan ever make of me/a boy. She attempts to reconcile her love for Ianthe against the pressures of nature. The wedding day is near, Telethusa is desperate, and prays again to Isis. Iphis is transformed, looking like a boy.Is Ovid suggesting that what we think is nature is attitude? Does Iphis grow a penis? Or does Iphis, adopting the characteristics of a boy, remain a girl married to a girl, undermining traditional values?From the Hardcover edition.


WINNER OF THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2015WINNER OF THE GOLDSMITHS PRIZE 2014SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2014WINNER OF THE 2014 COSTA NOVEL AWARDWINNER OF THE SALTIRE SOCIETY LITERARY BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2014NOMINATED FOR THE FOLIO PRIZE 2015How to be both is the dazzling new novel by Ali SmithPassionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith’s novels are like nothing else. How to be both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real — and all life’s givens get given a second chance. ‘Brims with palpable joy’ Daily Telegraph’She’s a genius, genuinely modern in the heroic, glorious sense’ Alain de Botton’I take my hat off to Ali Smith. Her writing lifts the soul’ Evening StandardAli Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. She is the author of Artful, There but for the, Free Love, Like, Hotel World, Other Stories and Other Stories, The Whole Story and Other Stories, The Accidental, Girl Meets Boy and The First Person and Other Stories.


Originally four lectures given at Oxford University, Ali Smith’s Artful is a tidal wave of ideas.Refusing to be tied down to either fiction or the essay form, Artful is narrated by a character who is haunted — literally — by a former lover, the writer of a series of lectures about art and literature. Full of both the poignancy and humour of fiction and all the sideways insights and jaunty angles you would expect from Ali Smith’s criticism, it explores form, style, life, love, death, mortality, immortality and what art and writing can mean.Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and the Orange prize, and winner of the Encore Award and the Arts Council Scottish Book Award, Ali Smith is one of our most interesting writers at work today. Artful shows her at her most innovative, warm and generous best.Praise for Artful:’Artful is a revelation; a new kind of book altogether. it could have only been written by Ali Smith. It will open doors for writers; a kind of Room of One’s Own for today’s readers. Only Smith won’t stay in one room. An intimate study of grief; Artful makes you glad to be alive’ Jackie Kay ‘Smart, allusive, informal, playful, audacious’ Independent’Ali Smith’s latest book once again finds her testing the boundaries of genre. powerful and moving’ London Review of Books ‘Artful transports the reader to this magical terrain. with its blending of criticism and fiction, Artful belongs in a genre of its own. a joyful and optimistic paean to the healing powers of art. It will be entertaining reading for anyone interested in the art of writing, and also of living, well’ Anita Sethi, New Statesman ‘A brilliant and moving book and as delightfully dodgy as the character from Oliver Twist whom the title evokes’ Claire Harman, Evening Standard Books of the YearPraise for Ali Smith:’Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today’ Daily Telegraph’She’s a genius, genuinely modern in the heroic, glorious sense’ Alain de Botton’A true and valuable British original’ Nick Hornby’Smith’s love of language lights up all her books. she’s someone to relish’ The New York Times Book ReviewAli Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. She is the author of There but for the, Free Love, Like, Hotel World, Other Stories and Other Stories, The Whole Story and Other Stories, The Accidental, Girl Meets Boy and The First Person and Other Stories.


There but for the is the sparkling satirical novel by bestselling Ali Smith’There once was a man who, one night between the main course and the sweet at a dinner party, went upstairs and locked himself in one of the bedrooms of the house of the people who were giving the dinner party. ’As time passes by and the consequences of this stranger’s actions ripple outwards, touching the owners, the guests, the neighbours and the whole country, so Ali Smith draws us into a beautiful, strange place where everyone is so much more than they at first appear. There but for the was hailed as one of the best books of 2011 by Jeanette Winterson, A.S. Byatt, Patrick Ness, Sebastian Barry, Boyd Tonkin, Erica Wagner and Nick Barley.’Dazzlingly inventive’ A.S. Byatt’Whimsically devastating. Playful, humorous, serious, profoundly clever and profoundly affecting’ Guardian’A real gem’ Erica Wagner, The Times’Eccentric, adventurous, intoxicating, dazzling. This is a novel with serious ambitions that remains huge fun to read’ Literary Review’If you liked Smith’s earlier fiction, you will know that she enjoys setting up a situation before chucking in a literary Molotov cocktail then describing what happens’ Sunday Express’Wonderful, word-playful, compelling’ Jeanette Winterson’Smith can make anything happen, which is why she is one of our most exciting writers today’ Daily Telegraph’I take my hat off to Ali Smith. Her writing lifts the soul’ Evening Standard


The Accidental is Ali Smith’s dazzling novel about a family holiday and a stranger who upends it.Arresting and wonderful, The Accidental pans in on the Norfolk holiday home of the Smart family one hot summer. There a beguiling stranger called Amber appears at the door bearing all sorts of unexpected gifts, trampling over family boundaries and sending each of the Smarts scurrying from the dark into the light.A novel about the ways that seemingly chance encounters irrevocably transform our understanding of ourselves,The Accidental explores the nature of truth, the role of fate and the power of storytelling.’A beguiling page-turner. a brilliant creation. To read The Accidental is to be excited from first to last’Independent’Joyous, a shot across the bows. writing as rapture, as giddy delight’ The Times’Brilliant and engaging, frequently hilarious. Smith makes one look at the world afresh’ Sunday Telegraph


Other Stories and Other Stories is a stunning collection of short stories from Ali Smith.Individually lucid and luminous, these formally inventive and exquisite tales resonate subtly together. In examining the distances and connections between ourselves and others, and lightly and expertly inching us closer to the bone, storytelling itself has never seemed so necessary, so moving or so joyous.’Beautifully written and quietly unsettling’ Big Issue’Bold and sensitive. Smith’s prose is a joy’ Independent’A wonderful collection; deceptively easy on one level with its whirling library of ghost story, funny story, love story, scary story, and more. Like Russian dolls, separate yet invisibly linked, they unfold from and into one another’ Herald’Smith breathes life into her imagined words with a true understanding of the craft of the short-story writer. She dances surely and lightly over the form’ Guardian’Captures quiet epiphanies of the extraordinary in the mundane’ Sunday Times’These stories fizz with life’ The Times Literary Supplement


The First Person and Other Stories is the fourth collection of short stories by Ali Smith. The First Person and Other Stories effortlessly appeals to our hearts, heads and funny bones. Always intellectually playful, but also very moving and funny, Smith explores the ways and whys of storytelling. In one, a middle-aged woman conducts a poignant conversation with her gauche fourteen-year-old self. In another, an innocent supermarket shopper finds in her trolley a foul-mouthed, insulting and beautiful child. Challenging the boundaries between fiction and reality, a third presents its narrator, ‘Ali’, as she drinks tea, phones a friend and muses on the relationship between the short story and — a nymph. Innovative, sophisticated and intelligent, the stories in The First Person and Other Stories are packed full of ideas, jokes, nuance and compassion. Ali Smith and the short story are made for each other.’Smith’s is a profoundly optimistic vision. These stories are frightening yet funny, and the sheer exuberance and playfulness of her language endows dark matters with a lightness of touch’ New Statesman’She’s a genius, genuinely modern in the heroic, glorious sense’ Alain de Botton’Terrific. hurrah for Ali Smith. The best short-story writers make it look as easy as making a cup of tea. Ali Smith is one of these. A bold and brilliant collection of stories by a writer unafraid to give it to us as it is’ Times’A glorious collection that celebrates and subverts the short story form’ Independent

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