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The Collage Police

Christian Lorentzen: Ali Smith

8 March 2018
Autumn 
by Ali Smith.
Penguin, 272 pp., £8.99, August 2017, 978 0 241 97331 8
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Winter 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 336 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 241 20702 4
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... Several factors​ contribute to the innocuousness of Ali Smith’s current project. She’s now published two novels of her projected ‘Seasonal Quartet’: Autumn, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Winter. These books don’t share characters or continuity but constitute a rapid-response literary gloss on the Brexit crisis ...

The Absolute End

Theo Tait: Ali Smith

26 January 2012
There but for the 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 356 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 0 241 14340 7
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... I felt especially sympathetic because one of the books whose absence was most complained of was Ali Smith’s There but for the. Jeanette Winterson said that Smith’s novel, about a dinner-party guest who hides in his hosts’ spare bedroom and refuses to come out, was a ‘wonderful, word-playful’ book left out ...

Dropped Stitches

Justine Jordan: Ali Smith

1 July 1999
Other Stories and Other Stories 
by Ali Smith.
Granta, 177 pp., £9.99, March 1999, 1 86207 186 1
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... way of other stories,’ the narrator tells a lover in ‘A story of love’, the final piece in Ali Smith’s second collection: ‘The end.’ This narrowly beats the previous shortest short story: ‘The last man on earth sat in a room. There came a knock at the door.’ In most of Smith’s stories one event sets ...

The day starts now

Eleanor Birne: On holiday with Ali Smith

23 June 2005
The Accidental 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 306 pp., £14.99, May 2005, 0 241 14190 7
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... All three of Ali Smith’s novels are set in holiday places. In Like (1997), Amy Shone and her daughter Kate live on a caravan site in Scotland; the characters of Hotel World (2001) are guests and workers at the Global Hotel in an unnamed city; in The Accidental, the new book, the Smart family are spending their summer in a mock-Tudor holiday house near the Norfolk Broads ...

At the Hayward

Marina Warner: Tracey Emin

25 August 2011
... of mawkishness and self-pity, and when she needs to, refines her skill to control the sensationalism.M The best drawings in the show have been montaged into a flicker film, Those who suffer love (2009), showing a woman zestfully – or is it frantically? – arousing herself. We assume it’s Emin because her art is so autobiographical, but these are very ...

Miss Dior, Prodigally Applied

Ian Patterson: Jilly Cooper

17 May 2017
Mount! 
by Jilly Cooper.
Corgi, 610 pp., £7.99, February 2017, 978 0 552 17028 4
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... guilty pleasure, the pleasure of repetition and the problems of it. The novels are not gritty or realistic, nor do they take themselves very seriously. They all, especially the series of hefty Rutshire Chronicles, delight in the entertainments of rural upper-middle-class life. The point of view always seems to be comfortably located there, admiring the ...

Diary

Stephen Smith: In Mogadishu

23 July 1992
... The cars drive into the United Nations compound in Mogadishu. The two Somalis get out, and so does the Filipino woman, and the sad-looking Egyptian who has been telling everyone he must be on the flight back to Nairobi at four o’clock. I am the only one who is going on, to the Save the Children Fund compound. Ahmed turns the car around and there are only the two of us in it ...

Play for Today

Adam Smyth: Rewriting ‘Pericles’

24 October 2019
Spring 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 336 pp., £16.99, March 2019, 978 0 241 20704 8
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The Porpoise 
by Mark Haddon.
Chatto, 309 pp., £18.99, May 2019, 978 1 78474 282 9
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... with the title ‘The just indignation the author took at the vulgar censure of his play by some malicious spectators begat this following Ode to Himself.’ Here he takes aim at a variety of theatrical taste favouring plays that resemble, in Jonson’s judgment, undesirable organic matter (mould, leftover food, discarded fish). No doubt some mouldy ...

It has burned my heart

Anna Della Subin: Lives of Muhammad

21 October 2015
The Lives of Muhammad 
by Kecia Ali.
Harvard, 342 pp., £22.95, October 2014, 978 0 674 05060 0
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... in ‘Turk’ or Sunni Islam. An arch-nemesis was invented for Muhammad called ‘Mortus Ali’, a mutation of the prophet’s son-in-law Ali, venerated by Shiites as the first imam. In 1649, not long after the execution of Charles I, the first English translation of the Quran appeared. Its Roy...

Diary

Rory Stewart: In Afghanistan

11 July 2002
... When Ali brought out his Koran I thought of Tony Blair. It was February 2002. The Taliban had retreated, having burned Ali’s village to the ground. Four feet of snow had closed the passes into Bamiyan and all the roads were laid with anti-vehicle mines ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith

3 October 2002
The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... of the times’ as possible, as much of ‘the way we live now’; and a frequent oiling of italics. A parody would go like this: Brian idly fingered the minibar. It was happily ‘chugging’ (though was ‘chugging’ exactly the right word?) to itself as if it had actually already drunk its entire contents. The minibar was one of that weird genre that ...

Whomph!

Joanna Biggs: Zadie Smith

1 December 2016
Swing Time 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 453 pp., £18.99, November 2016, 978 0 241 14415 2
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... The ends​ of great fiction do not change, much,’ Zadie Smith wrote eight years ago in an essay about David Foster Wallace. ‘But the means do.’ She was between novels: three years had passed since her most traditional, On Beauty, was published; NW, her most experimental, wouldn’t appear for another four ...

Travelling Text

Marina Warner: ‘The Arabian Nights’

18 December 2008
The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights 
translated by Malcolm Lyons, with Ursula Lyons.
Penguin, 2715 pp., £125, November 2008, 978 0 14 091166 4
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‘The Arabian Nights’ in Historical Context: Between East and West 
edited by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum.
Oxford, 337 pp., £55, November 2008, 978 0 19 955415 7
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... of the stories that dominated their diaspora, from the ‘Arabian Nights’ Entertainments’, serialised in 445 instalments over three years in the London News, to the fantasies of the Ballets Russes, to the 1924 Thief of Baghdad, to Disney’s Aladdin and Sinbad. In the countries of the book’s origin, the stories were considered popular trash, and excluded ...

Nodding and Winking

Stephen W. Smith: Françafrique

11 February 2010
... He was on holiday in Florida at the time but he’d rung up the top brass in Libreville, including Ali Bongo Ondimba, the son and likely successor of Omar Bongo Ondimba, Gabon’s ruler for 42 years, who’d died a few weeks earlier. In 1967, Bongo Sr, then 32 and an early recruit to the French secret services, had been installed in the presidency by Jacques ...

Agents of Their Own Abuse

Jacqueline Rose: The Treatment of Migrant Women

10 October 2019
... by guards – the sense is that the detainees are also being punished for being women. This reality is by no means specific to the UK. In July, the New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the object of sexually explicit social media posts by border guards after she described the horrifying conditions in US border detention centres: detainees ...

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