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Old Feb 1st, 2023, 02:23 PM
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Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

FEBRUARY
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Beginning in 2005, Independent Scottish publishing house CANONGATE has released a series of myths retold by contemporary authors of note. Luminaries including Margaret Atwood, A. S. Byatt, Su Tong, Alexander McCall Smith, Philip Pullman, and Jeanette Winterson have loaned their pens to this endeavor, and this month we will be reading Ali Smith's 2007 entry in the series.

GIRL MEETS BOY is a gender-bent, joyful, sly, exuberant---and at 176 pages, quite short--- "remix" of The Fable of Iphis and Ianthe from Ovid's Metamorphoses. The original is the tale of a girl raised as a boy who grows up to fall desperately in love with another girl. You guys. Can you even imagine? Ovid couldn't, actually, but Smith manages in a tale that PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY described as cheerful, sexy, disorienting.

FROM THE PUBLISHER
Synopsis:
From the astonishingly talented writer of The Accidental and Hotel World comes Ali Smith’s brilliant retelling of Ovid’s gender-bending myth of Iphis and Ianthe, as seen through the eyes of two Scottish sisters. Girl Meets Boy is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, and the absurdity of consumerism, as well as a story of reversals and revelations that is as sharply witty as it is lyrical. Funny, fresh, poetic, and political, Girl Meets Boy is a myth of metamorphosis for a world made in Madison Avenue’s image, and the funniest addition to the Myths series from Canongate since Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad.
About the Author:
Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. She is the author of Free Love, Like, Other Stories and Other Stories, Hotel World, The Whole Story and Other Stories and The Accidental. Her books have been won several awards and has four times been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.


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Old Feb 1st, 2023, 07:18 PM
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I'm looking forward to reading this one.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2023, 11:28 AM
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Bought it and started it!

Just the page of epigraphs had me hooked.
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Old Feb 5th, 2023, 11:59 AM
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Something that I really like about this one is how tolerant Robin is towards Ovid. Even though he doesn't get it quite right by our modern standards, Robin still stans for him and his story. He's got this particular worldview, and Robin fully disagrees with him on it, but still sees the value in what is ultimately a love story with a happy ending. I love that, and I also love the opening line of the novel.

Here's a photo of the Clach na C¨dainn, the oldest stone in Inverness (last one in the post). Anthea mentions it in the first chapter, and it's said locally to be Inverness' answer to the Palladium of Troy - so long as that stone is preserved, the city will thrive.
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Old Feb 6th, 2023, 09:06 PM
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Yes, I really liked the part where Robin told the story from Ovid, where first there was the story like an uninterrupted tale, and then Anthea retold exactly how it happened with her interjections and jokes. I think if you described this technique to me I'd say I'd be annoyed by it but I loved it in the execution. Robin and Anthea are just adorable.
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Old Feb 8th, 2023, 10:20 AM
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I am almost done. Maybe 25% to go.

I love Robin and Anthea, LOVE their word-play and the giddiness, their audible click. I like how seriously this book takes love---as a thing that matters. Yes, yes, earth, but also love.

Imogen's blanketed, parenthesis-bound voice pleases me immensely. This is the thing where I would have said, if you described the punctuation, I WILL HATE THAT THAT SOUNDS PRECIOUS AND TRY HARD, but I find it to be so effective. It weirdly makes me love her. She is so CONSTRAINED, even on the page, where Anthea is just bursting open into whole fields of blooms, as Robin says.

SPOILER THING:
 
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Old Feb 8th, 2023, 02:40 PM
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OKAY DONE

 
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Old Feb 8th, 2023, 10:12 PM
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I'm only 17% in! But wow, what a read. It's such a comfortable book to read - how it flows. It's like the natural processing of thoughts in my brain, which is odd to say, and maybe it's my ADD saying it, but ...it's wonderful. And Midge is so wonderful so far, along with the grandfather when he was a girl. It just makes my heart blossom.

I should put aside some posting tonight and finish the chapter.
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Old Feb 20th, 2023, 12:22 PM
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OKAY this is the time of the month where we assume everyone has read and so SPOILERS ARE WELCOME. Beware!

What's the magic word? I am with Midge, I would refuse it, Imogen is a great name. I needed this bouyancy and joy this month. AND THE SHORTNESS. I am trying to get my reader brain back working---it was damaged a great deal in the pandemic.

For me this was such a pleasure. It occurs to me that I don't know what the sisters look like---purposeful? Why?

The more I think about it, the more I like the way Smith uses repetition. Stories get retold, little bit different, myth creation in action, everything comes back--- the way the grandparents come back at the wedding, so godlike.

The optimism about people, even CRAPPY people, is intoxicating.
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Old Feb 20th, 2023, 04:22 PM
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Yeah, I feel like... it's a story about storytelling, you know? There's so many storytellers in it (good and bad - the Pure Dominant Narrative Department is just a terrifying name and concept), and that little bit in the middle where Anthea tells the Iphis story in her own words, and then you get to read this "oral" version of it with all the digressions and hecklings and informal registers - it's a storyteller's story, isn't it? I love the little anecdote that Anthea has about how she goes into bookshops and fans all the pages of the books so that each page gets to see the light, as if doing that releases the stories into the world.

Some of the criticisms I've seen of Ali Smith have been that she's very much a writer's writer, she does things structurally that are clever - artful, to use her own word. Some people find her a bit TOO clever? "Exclusionary", one person said. I don't think she is, personally. I agree that her writing is really dense, there's a heck of a lot going on in every sentence, in every situation, and it keeps on rewarding readers who are willing to do the work of unpacking it... but even if you don't want to do that work, it's still a great -and yes, joyful- story!

Now that you mention it Filly, I don't think Smith described the physical appearance of any of her characters in Hotel World either (the other Smith novel I've read), and I've got more of a sense of what Robin's handwriting looks like than Robin. The easy answer I guess is that maybe Smith just doesn't care about writing pen portraits, but it seems like there's got to be something else going on there. Maybe she wants you to be able to see yourself in her characters? It's a deft bit of work that she's done to make someone like Imogen sympathetic, like she wants you to take all these people into your heart. Maybe she feels like too much physical description would get in the way of that?
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Old Feb 20th, 2023, 06:00 PM
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It is for sure about storytelling, I totally agree, and the mutable-ness and power of myth. so interesting bothers, about the same lack in HOTEL WORLD. I have never before read Ali Smith, so I thought the lack of physical detail was book specific and wondered if it made them more universal, more mythic, more archtypal to not have this haircut and that foot shape. But maybe this is still true, and she wants this effect active in more books than just this one?

It DID feel dense with allusion and reference, and I could sense a bunch of submerged ones I wasn't getting just STACKED. I didnt; pause or think or google LA LA LA. SO it CAN be read for the sheer joy of it: I TESTIFY!

She does remind me of Winterson, and THE PASSION is in my top ten books. Some of her later stuff got too ---physically unmoored and thick with reference for me, but I love MANY of her books. She is also accused of being a writer's writer. I have FRAN KISS STEIN in my stack now, but havent; cracked it...
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Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 02:04 PM
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Hi BOOK CLUBBERS,

March is when we read a COLLECTION -- anyone got a collection of short stories or an anthology, or even GASP! poetry they are hot to read as this incredibly short month winds to a close?
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Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 05:42 PM
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Should we read a Roald Dahl collection… he has many short stories for adults in several collections — and talk about the rewrites of his work for more inclusive language? Or… too controversial? I’ve never read his stories for adults.
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 04:53 AM
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His short stories for adults are horrible. It's been something like 25-30 years since I last read any of them, but my overriding memory is that they were mostly misogynistic, ableist, orientalist, racist, etc, in various miserable combinations. Would need a lot more than the few word substitutions his kids books are getting to make that stuff palatable. I know a lot of people get a lot out of Dahl's adult short stories, and can overlook all the everything, especially with how beloved he is as a children's writer, but think it'd be a shame to go from something as life-affirming as Girl Meets Boy to Dahl's grotty Uncle Oswald.


Last pick was mine, so don't want to go too hard on suggestions, heh, but I do like the idea of doing a poetry! Or maybe a collection of stories that have been translated into English? I dunno what's hot and cool right now though. Or even how the youth are describing things that are both hot and cool these days.
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 08:29 AM
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So maybe the cleaning-up-Dahl discussion can be ancillary to the read. I just want to talk about it with somebody besides my students.

I like the idea of poetry too.

What about Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly? Which Filly recommended to me a while back and I loved. That's a very gift-able book right there.
Has everyone already read Citizen, an American Lyric by Claudia Rankine? I have not but everyone here is assigning it in the comp classes. I own it but haven't read.
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