Monday, May 1, 2017

Artful Ali

Ali Smith is a genius. To read her book Artful is to know that totally. She is beyond good.

The book is a collection of four lectures given at Oxford University in 2012 that were clearly written also to work as a whole. For they do work as a whole.

Artful is ostensibly taken from Dickens' Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist, but it goes way beyond Dickens (into the 21st century). There is at least one story within a story in Ali's Artful, whereas Dickens favoured the meta-narrative.

'Artful Ali' is both the artful horticulturist narrator and the uber-artful elite academic dead friend who the narrator keeps talking to, going on holiday with and even steeling books in her name.

She, the friend from the underworld, is in the middle of writing four lectures when she dies. We never find out what she died of. How is certainly incidental compared with that.

The lectures are:

1. 'On Time 2. On Form
3. On Edge and 4. On Offer and on Reflection.'

Katherine Mansfield also gets more mentions and more salutes than in any book I've read that was not either directly about KM and or written by a New Zealander. It doesn't happen often. It barely happens. And it should happen. KM is well deserving and overdue such praise.

So I appreciate this recognition of a proper creative genius. Living in NZ this is especially appreciated. Sometimes it takes a genius to recognise a genius.

Artful by Ali Smith is a brilliant and beautiful read and a definite must for anyone who likes to think hard about life. Anyone who dares.

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