Artful MOBI µ Paperback

Artful A stimulating combination of literary criticism, essay, and fiction The New Yorker from the incomparable Ali Smith Artful is a celebration of literature s worth in and to the world it is about the things art can do, the things art is made of, and the quicksilver nature of all artfulness A magical hybrid that refuses 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 Ali Smith s heady powers as a novelist and short story 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


10 thoughts on “Artful

  1. says:

    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 blue, the colour of your eyes It costs me a fortune It hurts like irony.I see you again only when it s finished and my skin settled down.You re unreal, you say when you see it.You re the real unreal thing all right.Less than aAll 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 blue, the colour of your eyes It costs me a fortune It hurts like irony.I see you again only when it s finished and my skin settled down.You re unreal, you say when you see it.You re the real unreal thing all right.Less than a month after this we move in together and mix our books upI love this book Artful is the product of four lectures Smith gave and combines a background story of coming to terms with death with a literary exploration of themes that deal with elements of grieving, time, fragmentation, etc Of course, Smith delivers all of this in a discourse that is both full of wit and tenderness I m not sure whether I love this book because of the way that Smith delivers the lectures or the selections of poetry and books she includes In any case, this is one of the books that I will read again and again


  2. says:

    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 seclusion The book has become a place I seek wordless and serene The early morning flower cupping the first rays of sun.A sensitive mind filled with graceful thought faces the devastation of loss through her readings of litera 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 seclusion The book has become a place I seek wordless and serene The early morning flower cupping the first rays of sun.A sensitive mind filled with graceful thought faces the devastation of loss through her readings of literature, its forms and issues of messages Grief melts the mind, melts the actions, only to be dipped into the odes of words and their patience.Saying the book is divided into four sections technically is correct, she who works a job imparting her knowledge of trees comes upon her late husbands speech he was working on to give at the University It s been a year and a day since his death Yes, the book is about division, the untwining of souls, the threads barely brushing by in a quiet nearing silence There is much in small saying goodbyes On this day after a year the book opens where she is moving the reading chair from the spot he insisted it to be to where she wanted it to stand Heavy, she pushed it unworried about the scratching of the floorboard planks A move deserving of its own commemoration, anniversary.A stillness pervades yet there is movement The stillness has its own movement A choir of whispers Its breath heeding a dissembling and a reassembling Forms, reflections, edges moving through time The coming apart and creating new structures, a varied self.Much of this is lifted, risen from his speech, the piles of paper bringing up memories from their life in books Not just a copious reader she is a sensitive reader with a wealth of works accessible in the brilliance of her mind Splendid works threading her moving tale together Closing the covers five o clock this morning I felt honored to witness this novel stranded together with filaments of fiction, essays, nocturnal memoirs dreaming Many edges respected while finding ways of fitting together Strands beginning to weave around each other into a completed whole Breathless, I recommend this experience to slow purveyors of written thought and abiding wisdom


  3. says:

    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 in this case, Smith is the one being addressed, by her partner returns, fortunately intermittent between the otherwise un tampered with content of her brief lectures Not unlike Adam Thirlwell s grandiose Miss Herbert in its 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 in this case, Smith is the one being addressed, by her partner returns, fortunately intermittent between the otherwise un tampered with content of her brief lectures Not unlike Adam Thirlwell s grandiose Miss Herbert in its weaving of narrative, opinion, fact and quotation, Smith s book is in a minor, but no less resonant, key, and gambols with the usual passion for language present in her novels her lectures, unsurprisingly, are riddled with quotations, as she barely suppresses her eagerness to share the marvels she has unearthed in her current literary explorations in this case Oliver Twist, James s The Golden Bowl and Katherine Mansfield Missing from this is her stirring keynote speech at the Edinburgh Book Festival an absence as heavy as the invisible You that haunts the first half of the story Cover image of Aliki Vougiouklaki, apparently a Greek Monroe, in looks only


  4. says:

    1.5 5 stars While I liked the concept of this book which is that it is based on 4 different university lectures given my Ali Smith and while some passages were thought provoking and interesting, this just wasn t a book for me I have to say that I actually found it a bit pretentious It s a long piece of work on thoughts and digressions on, amongst other things, time and form, and these thoughts connect with a lot of literature too much of it to be consistent and make sense, in my eyes 1.5 5 stars While I liked the concept of this book which is that it is based on 4 different university lectures given my Ali Smith and while some passages were thought provoking and interesting, this just wasn t a book for me I have to say that I actually found it a bit pretentious It s a long piece of work on thoughts and digressions on, amongst other things, time and form, and these thoughts connect with a lot of literature too much of it to be consistent and make sense, in my eyes You would have to be really interested in the literary world as well as philosophy in order to appreciate this book, and while those two subjects do interest me, the overall messages of this book were hard for me to find, and I found myself skimming the last pages because I wasn t interested any I do love Ali Smith s fiction, though so in the future I ll probably just stick to that


  5. says:

    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 Artful Dodger has dodged the summation of the last chapter.Ali Smith is a genius, but not one of those geniuses who makes things hard to understand dare I mention The Sense of an Ending Studies in the Theory of Fiction instead 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 Artful Dodger has dodged the summation of the last chapter.Ali Smith is a genius, but not one of those geniuses who makes things hard to understand dare I mention The Sense of an Ending Studies in the Theory of Fiction instead she makes things easy with humor, generosity and a loving spirit Her wordplay evokes a smile and sometimes even a chuckle of revelation.Her interests and literary references are all over the map literally and, to top it off, her narrator s job much of this is a fictional short story is trees Ali Smith loves trees , so we get some tree knowledge here as well For example, I learned the leaves of a tree develop a sheen of protection and when it rains, the pollution rolls right off them a lovely image.Though reminding myself that these are talks, at first I did experience a little bit of frustration with the lack of attribution to some of her excerpts when I couldn t find them in the text permissions Plus there s one unattributed picture of what looks like a paper plate from Pompeii that I didn t remember and then couldn t find referenced in the text at all But after reading the wonderful last page, I came upon Some sources used in the writing of these talks and not only was my curiosity satisfied except about that one image but I got some great additional information as well As the ghost of the narrator s lover spouse said Epomony


  6. says:

    My review will be just two quotes lifted out of this amazing bookAll the time I read this book I felt it was feeding me. AndWe 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 believe we ve read a book after reading it just once Enough said 5 stars Straight to the top of my To Be Reread list.


  7. says:

    Jan Feb 2015 4.5 Truly Madly Deeply x The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas fragments of essays on literature ArtfulJust 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 wasn t what I expected, but was, if anything, even nicer I daresay some friends have also had the experience that if something external makes you miserable whilst you re reading a particular book, it often isn t the right book any Jan Feb 2015 4.5 Truly Madly Deeply x The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas fragments of essays on literature ArtfulJust 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 wasn t what I expected, but was, if anything, even nicer I daresay some friends have also had the experience that if something external makes you miserable whilst you re reading a particular book, it often isn t the right book anyBut this was Not least because I find lost love, particularly if it occurred without any hurtful remarks, to be a displacement or refuge from harsher, less picturesque concerns it contains the sense of having been cared about and a continuing gratefulness that someone inadvertently provided this comfort, whilst not requiring a 180 emotional turn Artful s narrator is the widowed partner of an author much like Ali Smith, who died a year earlier in the middle of writing a series of talks which in reality were completed and delivered parts of them are interpolated in the text Related to the thought of the extreme procrastinator If I died now, I wouldn t have to finish this It isn t quite Gertrude writing in the person of Alice, for the narrator s work sounds like monitoring trees for a local council, whilst Smith s real life partner is a filmmaker Thank you to MJN s review for pointing out in the first few lines that the narrator is the partner The exuberance and deceptively simple language of Ali Smith s writing makes me speed over pages fast as if I was reading trash, prone to missing thingsthan usual in something of this complexity A few months ago in How to Be Both, I nearly didn t realise that view spoiler Francesco s narrative might have been the product of George s imagination hide spoiler I re read the fiction sections of part 1 of Artful, On time after I d finished the rest, to see how they sounded with this knowledge I don t re read much, but the first, reflexive, speed reading of these two Ali Smith books seems to demand it When I started writing this post, I hadn t set out to ape the talk essay sections of the original with their headings, but finding I wanted to say look look at dozens of quotes, I had to organise them Mostly I want to say how wonderfully Artful expresses things.Loss GriefI hadn t read anything, I hadn t been able to, for well over a twelvemonth and a day.how unfair that a chair we saw online and bought on a credit card and had delivered in a van would, could, did, last longer than us.I m okay I ve moved a really heavy chair I ve changed things And I ve read sixteen lines in a novel and I ve thought several things about them and none of this with you, or to do with you I even read the phrase item of mortality and thought of something other than you Time heals all wounds Or, as you used to say, time achilles heels all wounds.That s as far as you got That was it over I d read all of you, now.VoiceAs in Alice B Toklas, the voice is still noticeably the author partner s But here it s so lovely, primarily expressive rather than egotistical, that there isn t the same questioning of the psychological dynamics of the project Also Smith must be riffing on Stein, which gives the story further ironic distance and its tone is very endearing The rugs, all skewy now, looked like creatures, a mess of dogs asleep in random places on the floor I quite liked that I liked the thought that the room was full of new and unexpected sleeping dogs.The top piece of paper on the abandoned writings is suncurled It s as if there s always been a gap in the language waiting for that word.RelationshipThe exuberance of Smith s writing is there in the IRL version of this writer How often is literary fiction this likeable you rushing out of the garden and into the kitchen a couple of summers ago with the book open going, look look at this it s probably a hundred years old, a hundred year old greenfly, it could literally be a hundred years since anyone s opened this, look at its wings you can actually see the veins, you can actually still see the green of it, think, a hundred years ago this greenfly could ve been visiting hundred year ago rosesIt s kind of a novelty to hear about secure couples in literature, especially when they aren t in this context they can t be cloying Like the nodding De Chirico heads in Sylvia Plath s The Disquieting Muses, you said from your seat at the desk If you say so, I said, whatever they are when they re at home.Not that I can imagine living with someone who didn t get most of my and I their references, asthan a temporary flatmate But many people do It was me who liked cinema, not you We d had a lot of arguments about it And the thing about the Powell Pressburger target was something I d actually once said to you In fact, I d said a lot of those things to you, about Chaplin and Hitchcock, and it was me who d made you sit down with me and watch them both I couldn t believe that what I d said had got into your writing It was thrilling.Because when I think about what it was like to live with you, it was like all these things It was like living in a poem or a picture, a story, a piece of music, when I think of it now It was wonderful.There s just so much love, not aggrandisement, in the way such things are said, all this feels as if it s probably rooted in the way she feels about her partner, not so much in the puffed up ego of imagining people saying nice things about her in her absence From one of the talks Offering and sacrifice are at one level a direct request for dialogue, and at another ask the existential question not so much do You exist, as do I Trees and nature Even after the worst storm damage, a tree, so long as there s some green in the break, can be healed and mended and carry on growing Unless, that is, the heart was like one of the literally thousands of kinds of apple tree that have disappeared from the British Isles in reasonably recent history because of the way the supermarkets only really like to sell about five kinds of apple That would be something to have a heart whose tree produced a fruit that had otherwise died out.one day Cezanne threw something he was working on, a study of apples, out of the window of the top floor of his house and it landed in the branches of a fruit tree below, and he left it for weeks, till the day he looked up, saw it again and called to his son to go and get the ladder because it had ripened enough for him to work on it a bit .And much talk of evenings getting lighter this is a spring book.Quoting about other people in the talksKusama By continuously reproducing the forms of things that terrify me, I am able to suppress the fear Edwin Morgan Orpheus this sounds just lovely Would like to read the whole thing.e e cummings As a kid I d found him not as exciting and funny as the childish lowercase promised Recently I ve seen several of his poems or bits of and they re lovely Should perhaps look again EM Forster, though, saw it a littleeven handedly when human beings love they try to get something They also try to give something, and this double aim makes lovecomplicated than food or sleep It is selfish and altruistic at the same time, and no amount of specialization in one direction quite atrophies the other Here s to the wreathed trellis of a working brain that s what Keats called it in Ode to Psyche George Mackay Brown said about how he spent his days I assure you, there are few jobs in life like the leafing and blossoming of the imaginationhow Ovid, metamorphosing into Ted Hughes I love this way of putting it Josephine Baker and her use of comic mask again, want to know , but so many things Horrible things probably worth knowingabout His French swimming instructor befriends him The friendship is as illegal as inviting an illegal immigrant into your home is, in Calais, in the year 2009 We are living in times where, very close to home, hospitality is punishable by law.The nature of the ghost You were wearing that black waistcoat with the white stitching that went out of fashion in 1995, the one we gave to Oxfam. Ha I d almost forgotten about early 90s waistcoats They were everywhere Mostly unnecessary and in the way, but I had one long fitted denim one which both suited me and was surprisingly warm If only I d reimagined you without your snoring But then it wouldn t have been true, would it It wouldn t have been you. Not that I wasn t glad you were back, coming and going like you did over the weeks, the same you only slightlyragged looking every time, and every time coming in like I wasn t even there and going straight over and sitting at the study desk, pulling your hair out over those talks you had been going to give about books and art. When I got back I found you d clearly been right behind me and had lifted a couple of books from the charity bookshop whose stock I d had a passing look at I began to worry You were a figment of my imagination That meant I must have taken those things The mixture of magic realism and realism in self awareness in these sections is great I don t understand why the narrator makes herself sound so much worse than she is when talking to the doctor though And all this results in is getting sent to a bland and generic counsellor who doesn t connect with her, whom there s no opportunity to choose based on whether they suit one another Though she does provide information that strings the book together Aliki Vougiouklaki her on the cover who played ALL FOUR in her time, Antigone, Evita, that mad pure Julie Andrews nun with the guitar, and the gorgeous debauched Sally Bowles as well as Shirley Valentine and Shaw s Pygmalion and Aristophanes s Lysistrata and the leads in My Fair Lady and in Tennessee Williams s Sweet Bird of Youth, and dressed up as a boy in a Greek film musical version of Romeo and Juliet, and .The film scenes described still not using YouTube so have not seen sound wonderful and exuberant I love 60s cinema but have never seen any from Greece Aliki by the way is Greek for Alice I love that she cares about this and knows this and thinks we would care too I m not sure how she manages to make little things like this never sound patronising which is very easy assuming your audience knows and or can look things up is usually the best way not to but she has a knack


  8. says:

    A rather odd book, fusing notes from a series of lectures on the arts that the author gave at Oxford with a meditation on grieving for a lost partner.I wondered why the author chose to render this book as a work of fiction Why not present the lectures in their final form for us to digest As they are, the individual subjects hit chords that resonate but are not presented as a cohesive whole The dead arts professor a proxy for Smith, I take it is memorialized by the narrator lover who is a bo A rather odd book, fusing notes from a series of lectures on the arts that the author gave at Oxford with a meditation on grieving for a lost partner.I wondered why the author chose to render this book as a work of fiction Why not present the lectures in their final form for us to digest As they are, the individual subjects hit chords that resonate but are not presented as a cohesive whole The dead arts professor a proxy for Smith, I take it is memorialized by the narrator lover who is a botanist by trade and an amateur literateur who can only manage to read Oliver Twist throughout the course of this novel A sort of an ego boost for Smith, by Smith, I think At points, the narrative gets a bit corny when the narrator starts to see the dead lover in ghostly form, smell and all and the smell intensifies as time passes What finally turned me off the fictional element was when the narrator or the ghost starts stealing things from other people The narrator subsequently seeks help for her kleptomaniacal activity, which is likened to a form of grieving by her shrink.The content of the lectures themselves are interesting time, form, edges, offer and reflection are dissected into their various dimensions and meanings with elegant word play Some points stuck with me Form is clear rules and unspoken understandings The mirror is a reflection between our world and another The multiple dimensions of time and the multiple meanings of the word form On edge and being on edge the best way to illustrate each other Edges are extremes and borders Love is an exchange of altruism vs selfishness.In the course of the lectures, we get either passing references or detailed analyses of the literary greats and their works Dickens, Proust, Saramago, Kafka, Borges, Woolf, Ondaatje, Calvino, Atwood, Angela Carter and Katherine Mansfield to name a few Painters like Cezanne and Dali, and movie makers like Hitchcock, with his recipe for suspense, are also on offer Writers like Woolf, who struggled at a time when cinema was coming of age and threatening to topple books from their perch, had much to say about the new medium and its divergence from the written word We can see life on the screen to a deeper level when we have no part in it part observation, part condemnation Anecdotes are plentiful e.g Dali was trapped in a diving suit, nearly dying of suffocation, when he dressed in one to illustrate how he was going to be diving into the depths of human subconscious And the poetry selected and explained is comprised of very powerful pieces And like the narrator who is hooked on Dickens, the dead lover was also hooked on a now dead Brazilian Marilyn Monroe look alike actress, Aliki Vougiouklaki, who played every juicy female lead part in the movies in her country Aliki gets to adorn the cover of this book There is lot to keep the art enthusiast engaged But I wondered why this form was chosen to present the work Was there a need for experimentation, was there a need for validation, was there a need to extend the material in the lectures to a wider audience beyond Oxford Perhaps all three are in play here


  9. says:

    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 through the pages of the book looking for examples, another old friend came in and said what a great book it was My frustration grew as I found it impossible to focus on the words, impossible to find anything at all in this, m 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 through the pages of the book looking for examples, another old friend came in and said what a great book it was My frustration grew as I found it impossible to focus on the words, impossible to find anything at all in this, much less anything I objected to True story A dream, but no less true for that I had the dream after having read the first two sections of this book, and my inability to cite any particulars was, of course, easy enough to understand once I had woken I have now returned it to the library, so this will no doubt be much the same, though without the facade or frustration.1 Putting the Pathetic in ParentheticallyWhen told about his enthusiastic advocacy in my dream, the friend, referred to above as you in an empty attempt to emulate the work currently under discussion, said Fuck off This is why I m wary when you say that things remind you of me Pathetic The only thing I recently said reminded me of him was , and there s nothing wrong with that Later he added, I think my mum got something by her for Christmas 2 Putting the Art in Cart and then Putting the Cart, Chronologically, Before the HorseIs this fiction or non Is it important No, to all of it The apparent structural ingenuity is not, however, enough to provide sustenance The story tells of someone bereaved it has been a year , having lost their partner view spoiler I don t think the sex of the partner is ever overtly referenced and it can be fairly entertaining to see some assuming he and others she hide spoiler Then the deceased comes through the door looking bedraggled, with reduced affect and speaking what appears to be nonsense The dead person has left behind some unfinished essays and it is with our protagonist that we read these There isof the story, but it never really grabbed me, and even when I reached out to it we were unable to establish any meaningful contact The essays themselves are quite lacklustre, despite being sprinkled with choice quotes from many wonderful writers Jose Saramago, Clarice Lispector, Henry James, Leonora Carrington, James Kelman, Alasdair Gray etc Smith doesn t seem to have much to add though, or much to say using these quotes to illustrate instead she seems to think that puns and other frivolous wordplay is the best way to meaning this tendency can be seen in the section titles to a small extent On Time, On Edge, On Your Honour and On Tenterhooks these last 2 are fabricated as I ve forgotten the actual ones I don t have any objections to any form of word game but, indulged in to this extent, though they may be fun to play they are certainly not a spectator sport I can t help being slightly sympathetic to anyone with decent taste in books, and one of the stars is probably for the quotes Good taste is not, however, a good reason to start making tongues Some of the things quoted don t live up to this standard at all, the only example I can remember being Jackie Kay s truly awful poem we later learn this was written specially for this collection why Why.3 Putting the Sock in Putting a Sock in ItI picked this book up after having seen much fulsome praise for Ms Ali on this here site I was not much impressed Perhaps it is a bad place to start, but I would have a hard time working up the enthusiasm forThis is not a parody review it is not meant to ape her writing style, but I hope the inclusion of putting the ____ in _____ headings as well as several largely meaningless phrases, along with the general lack of anything to say, communicates what I felt to be the flaws of this book I will now include a small quote from The Stone Raft by Jose Saramago several times quoted in Artful to demonstrate how easy it is to have that man speak for us some of our thoughts are like this, they serve only to occupy, out of anticipation, the place of others that would give usfood for thought


  10. says:

    Me before starting Artful hmm I m not really sure how much I ll enjoy a book that s a fusion of essay, literature lecture and fictionAli Smith Hold my beer..Truly, I didn t think I d enjoy this one, and while there were some parts that went over my head classic Ali Smith tbf for the most part I was reading in sheer awe This is Smith s love letter to literature She explores the myriad of ways literature can impact us, change our view of the world, the ways it can be read and reread and d Me before starting Artful hmm I m not really sure how much I ll enjoy a book that s a fusion of essay, literature lecture and fictionAli Smith Hold my beer..Truly, I didn t think I d enjoy this one, and while there were some parts that went over my head classic Ali Smith tbf for the most part I was reading in sheer awe This is Smith s love letter to literature She explores the myriad of ways literature can impact us, change our view of the world, the ways it can be read and reread and different meanings extracted from it..A quote from a critic on the back likens it to being at a dinner party with some of literature s greats and I concur imagine them all holding forth over some glasses of wine, yeah you might not catch all of it but dammit you re happy to be there and happy to glean what you can from their brilliance That s what this book was like for me..It made me want to readwidely, read better, read MORE, and I will definitely, 100 percent be reading this book again in the future, many times, myself a different person each time I pick it up and new meanings revealed to the new me


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