The First Person
and Other Stories
By Ali Smith
(Pantheon, Hardcover, 9780307377715, 224pp.)
Publication Date: January 6, 2009
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In these energetic, exhilarating stories, Ali Smith portrays a world of everyday dislocation, where people nevertheless find connection, mystery, and love. In “Astute Fiery Luxurious,” a misdelivered package throws the life of a couple into disarray. A boy’s unexplained illness in “I Know Something You Don’t Know” drives his mother to seek guidance from homeopathic healers, with inconclusive results. In “The Child,” an unnervingly mature young boy voices offensive humor that genteel society would rather not acknowledge. And a confident older woman meets her awkward fourteen-year-old self in “Writ” but can’t figure out how to guide her–or even whether she should.
As Smith explores the subtle links between what we know and what we feel, she creates an exuberant, masterly collection that is packed full of ideas, humor, nuance, and compassion. Ali Smith and the short story are made for each other.
Ali Smith is the author of six previous works of fiction, including the novel Hotel World, which was short-listed for both the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize in 2001 and won the Encore Award and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award in 2002, and The Accidental, which won the Whitbread Award in 2005 and was short-listed for the 2005 Man Booker Prize and the 2006 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Her story collections include Free Love, which won a Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award, and The Whole Story and other Stories. Born in Inverness, Scotland, in 1962, Smith now lives in Cambridge, England.
“Sparkling and zany, fiercely intellectual yet full of humble longing. . . so deft, so beautifully written. . . . Smith’s writing presents the constant threat of liftoff from the laws of physics. . . . She’s got a paradoxical, original style.”
–Maria Russo, The New York Times Book Review
“Intriguing. . . If Smith excels at creating, both in her stories and in her readers, a sense of eerie dislocation, she can also stir up an enchanting sense of whimsy.”
–Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
“[An] unsettling take on contemporary life. . . . Smith’s style is terse and edgy. . . Provocative and enigmatic.”
–Harvey Freedenberg, BookPage
“Deftly moving . . . brimming with poetic whimsy. . . . These tales are vibrant and poignant, as though deconstructing our compulsion to connect with one another were as easy as writing a story.”
–Rachel Rosenblit, Elle magazine
“Smartly constructed. . . . Compellingly quirky demonstrations of how our imaginations react to ordinary people and everyday occurrences. . . . Smith is an original observer of the blessings and curses of living inside one’s imagination.”
“Everyone has their own tale to tell in this bangup collection. . . . At once quirky and compulsively readable, this collection puts a layered and enjoyable spin on the many forms of the short story.”
"Smith is a dazzling talent, fearlessly lassoing different styles and ideas and playfully manipulating them."
—The Washington Post
"[She] is a wonderful ventriloquist, adept at throwing her voice into an astonishing array of characters."
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"A skilled, majestically confident writer."
—New York Observer
"Original, restless, formally and morally challenging, she remains a writer who resists definition."
—The Times Literary Supplement
"Smith's well-honed prose gives a feeling of eavesdropping on her characters' innermost thoughts."
—The New Yorker
"[She is] a confident writer who's wholly uninterested in impressing her readers, preferring to pay them the ultimated compliment of simply engaging them."
"Joyous… Smith plays dizzying games with her story and language; she bends and buckles her prose, breathes fire into it, lets it cool, swirls it up in unimaginable shapes. This is writing as pure rapture, as giddy delight."
—The Times (London)
More than 150 writers from 40 events will gather in New York City for PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, April 28 – May 4, 2014.
For its 10th anniversary, the festival celebrates those who have dared to stand ‘on the edge,’ risking their careers, and sometimes their lives, to speak out for their art and beliefs. Join us for a wide range of events, including debates, one-on-one conversations, participatory workshops and performances in venues throughout the city. Use the code PEN14 (use PEN2014 for events at The Public Theater) and receive a 20 percent discount on most events. www.worldvoicesfestival.org