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.
"Starred Review. Contemplative, electrifying, and transformative...The results are redemptive for everyone, testifying with singular clarity and wit to the immutable necessity for art." - Publishers Weekly
"A soulful intellectual inquiry and reflection on life and art, artfully done." - Kirkus
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Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. Her first book, Free Love and Other Stories, won the Saltire First Book Award. Her other short story collections are Other Stories And Other Stories (1999), The Whole Story and Other Stories (2003) and The First Person and Other Stories. Her novels include: Like (1997); Hotel World (2001), which won the Encore Award, the East England Arts Award of the Year and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award in 2002; The Accidental (2005), winner of the Whitbread Novel Award; and her latest There but for the which was published by Hamish Hamilton in 2011. Ali Smith also writes for the Guardian, the Scotsman and The Times Literary Supplement.
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