Friday, May 12, 2006

Ali Smith, anyone?

Sometimes, in fact quite often, I find myself feeling prejudiced against the contemporary writers who seem to come from nowhere to become household names, the overnight success stories. I sense aggressive marketing there, perhaps fairly, perhaps unfairly, but it puts me off. Ali Smith has fallen into this category, with me, I think (again, fairly or not; and hell, it's not as if she's a complete upstart, she's been publishing for ten years or something). Up until now I had resolutely not read anything by her, but then the online Guardian published the first chapter of The Accidental. I read it and wanted the book. I finished reading it a couple of days ago.

Now, what bothers me is I cannot decide whether I liked it or not, very much or not at all. It is clearly a well-written pageturner, and very much the sort of thing that I usually like. So why don't I rave on about what a great read it is?

And to make things even less straightforward, I would now certainly want to read more of her work, even without really knowing whether I liked the book or not. Even straightaway, whereas the Jelinek book I read recently I knew without doubt I liked. It is probably the more (for the want of a better word) "worthy" of the two, too. But I don't feel I want to read any more of her right now - one day for sure, but not directly after. Too heavy.

So am I saying Ali Smith is a light read? That sounds condemning. I don't think that's what I mean.

Be that as it may, the library here is quite well-stocked and exotically beautiful. It has an open-air atrium, with a garden of mostly native tropical plants and volcanic rocks, particularly effective on a day of gentle rain. And they actually still stamp the books with a due-date stamp! I love puzzling over the dates, wondering why a book was out eight times in '96 and not once since, and so on.

© 2006 Anna MR


nmj said...

Honey, Don't get me started on marketing (or NOT marketing, as the case may be!). . . Ali Smith is interesting because she also had an ME/CFS type illness and had to stop work and started to write, but she had a mild form (in that it didn't last for years and years) and as far as I know she is much better . . . I do like her work (but don't love it) and want to read 'The Accidental', but for Scottish women writers, you can't beat A L Kennedy, I read her and gasp at her virtuousity.

kurt said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, Anna. I see you are restless too, both topic & location -wise
(Though I never go anywhere, I'm a huge "travel essay" fan).

I can see the attraction of Hawaii, since I've been drawn more than once to the deadpan cruelty of wintertime webcam pictures at the Finnish Road Administration website:
(It looks pretty nice there now)


Anna MR said...

Oh Kurt, what a discovery in the way of websites! I shall now be found forever staring at the lines of traffic on various stretches of the Finnish motorway system. Homesickness is a peculiar phenomenon...but seriously. Isn't it *light* there? And it's gone nine pm!

nmj - I shall take your recommendation and see if the Hawai'i State Library system holds any AL Kennedy...

nmj said...

AL Kennedy - i recommend PARADISE & EVERYTHING YOU NEED, her short stories are good too though sometimes she is a bit oblique . . .