Tag: Literary Fiction

Aracoeli by Elsa Morante

Posted September 29, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 1 Comment

Aracoeli by Elsa MoranteTitle: Aracoeli (Goodreads)
Author: Elsa Morante
Translator: William Weaver
Published: Open Letter, 2009
Pages: 311
My Copy: Paperback

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When an Italian booktuber (Bruno) offers some recommendations for great Italian authors to check out, I am going to pay attention. In his video, he recommended Alberto Moravia and Elsa Morante, who were married for twenty years. Comparing Elsa Morante to Elena Ferrante peaked my interest and the recommendation given was her last novel Aracoeli. A melancholic novel about an aging man attempting to recover his past and get his life on track. Stuck in a dead-end job for a small publishing house, 43 year old Manuel travels to the home town of his mother Aracoeli, to try and understand her.

People that have a deep understanding of psychology would get more from Aracoeli than I did but what struck me is his obsession with his mother. I do believe that Manuel is a very unreliable narrator so all his thoughts and feelings have to be considered before discovering the truth. His self-loathing I could handle but I was often frustrated with his short-sightedness. It was difficult to like this character because I found myself constantly trying to analyse him, never sure if I was understanding who he truly was.

Aracoeli was an enigma as well, mainly because we are constantly inside Manuel’s had. I never felt like I was fully understanding this character, and when the novel talks about how she contracts an incurable disease (syphilis is implied) or how she was a nymphomaniac I spent more time wondering about her situation. She was a victim of her circumstances and the way women were treated. Reading Aracoeli felt more like sifting through all that is going on to find the truth, but that is part of its appeal.

If I am to compare Elena Ferrante to Elsa Morante, it would be in relation to the way both wrote about the treatment of women. Both wrote incredibly complex Neapolitan women trying to navigate their way through life. I think Ferrante is a much easier read but I might consider Morante a much more rewarding experience.

I do not begin to understand the complexity of Aracoeli and I know it will be many read throughs before I even scratch the surface. I love novels like this because they make you work for a much more rewarding experience. I may not understand Aracoeli now but I hope to in the future. There is so much despair and destruction in the book, but I find myself pondering it weeks after I finished it. I have to return to Aracoeli, it is the type of book that leaves you no other choice.


The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud

Posted September 12, 2016 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 2 Comments

The Meursault Investigation by Kamel DaoudTitle: The Meursault Investigation (Goodreads)
Author: Kamel Daoud
Translator: John Cullen
Published: Oneworld Publications, 2013
Pages: 143
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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One of the key components to philosophy is the ability to argue your point, this is done in many different ways and Albert Camus’ novel The Stranger does exactly that. Kamel Daoud took the same approach for his counterargument, with his novel The Meursault Investigation. This novel seemed to have taken the world by storm, winning the Goncourt du Premier Roman, the Prix des Cinq Continents, the Prix François Mauriac and shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt. It follows Harum seventy years after his brother Musa (the Arab) was killed by Meursault. Harum is reflecting back on his life and the impact Meursault’s story has had on himself, his family and Algeria.

Kamel Daoud’s response to The Stranger is basically saying that life is not absurd, it has meaning. Taking a life has consequences and execution is not simply a life for a life. Meursault killing the Arab had a big impact, and never referring to him by name allowed Camus to focus his story but at the risk of missing the bigger picture. So seventy years later, well after Algeria has declared their independence from France, the story of Meursault is still a topic of discussion.

First of all, the death of Musa has an impact on the life of Harum and his family. The Meursault Investigation starts off exploring the life of Harum and his mother and how the death of Musa effected them. The novel spirals out, first looking at the effect it had on Harum, then his mother and family and then finally Algeria. This may come across as repetitive but I think it was important to understand the impact.

I watched a lecture by Daoud that talks about The Stranger and comparing it to Robinson Crusoe. This is an exploration into post-colonialism; Meursault meets someone who was different to him and kills him. Robinson Crusoe did the same thing to Friday, just not physically; he forced him to convert to his idea of civilisation. That meant changing the way his acted, dressed and most of all his religious beliefs. The fact that Meursault killed an Arab on the beach could be symbolic of the island. If you follow this train of thought, The Meursault Investigation turns into a very complex philosophical argument, not only against The Stranger but the opinions of Western society (especially France) towards the raise of Islam.

The Meursault Investigation is an angry novel with some very deep philosophical ideas embedded into the pages. Published originally in French (translated by John Cullen) this novel evoked similar reactions for me as Submission by Michel Houellebecq in the way it explores France’s reaction to Islam. I understand people’s criticism about repetitive in The Meursault Investigation but I feel like it was necessary as Daoud needs to keep circling back to the death of the Arab and exploring how it affected everyone. This is the butterfly effect and I enjoyed every moment of this novel.


Numero Zero by Umberto Eco

Posted December 24, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Numero Zero by Umberto EcoTitle: Numero Zero (Goodreads)
Author: Umberto Eco
Translator: Richard Dixon
Published: Harvill Secker, 2015
Pages: 208
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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Colonna is a down and out hack-journalist that has just stumbled on an opportunity of a lifetime. Assistant editor for an emerging newspaper, as well as ghost writing a memoir for Simei, the editor and creator of the paper Domani. As he interacts with the team of journalists he learns about a conspiracy theory about Mussolini’s corpse. Umberto Eco returns for another fast paced thriller involving an elaborate conspiracy theory in this short novel, Numero Zero.

Every time I read an Umberto Eco novel, I have been really impressed. He is often referred to as the intellectual Dan Brown, meaning they both share a similar style but Eco packs in a lot more information. The first Eco novel I read (and still my favourite) was Foucault’s Pendulum and it explored ideas of religious and secret organisations and making a conspiracy theory out of it. Conspiracy theories play a big role in his other novels which I have read (The Name of the Rose and The Prague Cemetery). However I feel that Numero Zero seems to be more similar to Foucault’s Pendulum.

While Umberto has the ability to create a fast paced thriller that is both witty and wry, I am always impressed with the amount of information he can pack into his novels. While Numero Zero is a very short novel, sitting under two hundred pages, there are times that it feels like an information dump. Most information or theories are told in dialogue and my biggest problem with this book was the amount of information being provided seem to detract from the historical thriller style.

The narrator of Numero Zero is fifty something year-old Colonna who provides a unique view through the events of the novel. A college drop-out, Colonna is a bitter and cynical protagonist who flitted from job to job. From tutoring, proofreading, being a copy editor and slush-pile reader, he has had his fair share of experience in journalism. The newspaper Domani (Yesterday) intends to deliver the news earlier than all the other papers, creating some backdated issues to experiment with format and methods of reaching the papers ultimate goal. Although Simei is planning to use these back issues as blackmail material to push himself into a high social position.

This allows Umberto Eco to do something different in Numero Zero. I do not remember any of Eco’s previous novels being as satirical as this book. Eco is satirising the media throughout the entire novel. Exploring the ways journalists manipulate the news being distributed to the general public. I did not expect the novel to be satirical but I really enjoyed the way Umberto Eco managed to blend his style and still explore a current social issue.

If you have never read an Umberto Eco novel, I do think Numero Zero makes for a good starting point. Most of Eco’s novels are a lot bigger and this novel allows you to dip into his style without a huge time investment. While this book did have a problem with information dumping, it still makes for a decent starter novel. Not his best book, but if you enjoy Numero Zero then all Umberto Eco’s other novels are for you.


Me and the Devil by Nick Tosches

Posted December 12, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Me and the Devil by Nick ToschesTitle: Me and the Devil (Goodreads)
Author: Nick Tosches
Narrator: Rick Zieff
Published: Back Bay Books, 2012
Pages: 400
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

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Aging writer Nick is witnessing the decline of civilisation. One night he meets a provocative young woman in a bar that surprisingly offers to go home with him. This one night unleashed an unholy desire within him. Unable to control his primitive desires, Nick finds his thirst getting strong. His desire for blood quickly becomes the driving force in his life. However, has he just found the key to mortality or has he just unknowingly made a deal with the devil?

Reading Me and the Devil, I notice right away that Nick Tosches is playing with the vampire genre; the idea of old men drinking the blood of young women to gain extended morality. Turning it into a sexual perversion, blood play works really well as a device to explore the vampire mythology. The story basically follows a young nineteen year old in an unhealthy relationship with an older man. It is basically Twilight, exposing many of the problems with the relationship of Edward and Belle.

Although Nick Tosches does a much better job with the relationship, exploring a darker and more brutal nature of an unhealthy relationship. His writing is beautiful and is often compared to William S. Burroughs and Charles Bukowski. I love that gritty nature of the novel and surprising beauty in the language. When it comes to talking about food, Tosches is very detailed and I found myself getting hungry at the food imagery.

Besides the vampire angle, Me and the Devil is a story of a grumpy old man that is angry with the changing world. Interestingly enough that the main character is named Nick Tosches, making this anger autobiographical. If you look at Nick’s website, the ‘about the author’ section simply says “Nick Tosches lives in what used to be New York.” This is a representation of how the character viewed New York, always talking about the old days. When you had little deli’s and mum and pop stores. The quality of the food was so much better back in the old days.

I feel like there is a lot to say about this novel but it would require spoiling the plot and I really think this is a book that deserves to be experience blind. Since Nick is a writer in the novel there are heaps of literary references to obscure and cult classics, which I appreciated. I loved Nick Tosches writing style and need to read more of his books. He is mostly known for his dark and gritty music biographies Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story and Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams (Dean Martin) and I am interested in reading those books. Tosches also explores a lot of religious themes so I am excited to experience more of his novels.  This is the type of author that you will either love or hate, luckily for me, I have found a new favourite.


Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Posted November 26, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

Satin Island by Tom McCarthyTitle: Satin Island (Goodreads)
Author: Tom McCarthy
Published: Jonathan Cape, 2015
Pages: 173
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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Tom McCarthy has a unique approach to fiction; Satin Island is an avant-garde novel that explores the philosophical implications of corporate anthropology. A career path that I never thought existed but makes a lot of sense if corporations were using anthropologist for an extra edge. Rather than researching people for science, a corporate anthropologist would try to predict best possible scenarios to leak bad news, or which marketing strategies would have the biggest impact on the public.

Satin Island was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and it sounded very different to the other novels. I knew I had to check it out and see what it was all about; the back of the book gave nothing away. This is a post-modern novel and I am actually surprised to see it also making the shortlist for this year’s Man Booker. Normally the novels that are vastly different and experimental never make it past the longlist. Making the shortlist might mean that more people will pick up Satin Island and that can only be a good thing.

The protagonist for this novel is U. and it is pretty obvious that Tom McCarthy expects you to see yourself from this point of view. The book has no real plot or character development, leaving the reader to focus on the moral and social implications of corporate manipulation. The concept of a corporate anthropologist can be both fascinating and terrifying and McCarthy wants people to be aware of this fact.

For a book that is 173 pages long, this is in no way a short novel. The depth and complexity found in Satin Island would keep you thinking about the book for a while. I really appreciated what Tom McCarthy did in this book, it really opened my eyes to so many issues. Now that I am aware of the concept of corporate anthropology, I cannot help but see the way it could be used in marketing. Satin Island is experimental and if you are willing to try an avant-garde novel, it is well worth your time and effort.


Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Posted November 12, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan LethemTitle: Motherless Brooklyn (Goodreads)
Author: Jonathan Lethem
Published: Vintage, 1999
Pages: 311
My Copy: Paperback

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Frank Minna is a neighbourhood owner of a seedy detective agency, or he was until he was found stabbed to death. Lionel, along with Tony, Danny and Gilbert worked for Frank and were often collectively known as Minna Men. The group grow up together in St. Vincent’s Home for Boys and owe a lot to this small time mobster turned private eye. Lionel is determined to find out what happened by Frank.

This is my first Jonathan Lethem novel and I have been keen to read him for a long time. What I heard about Lethem is his ability to combine genre fiction and explore themes in an interesting way. Motherless Brooklyn does just this; under the vial of a hard-boiled detective novel, this also is a coming of age story as well as exploring life with Tourette’s syndrome. Lionel Essrog has lived with Tourette’s for his entire life, manifesting in physical and vocal tics. He is often referred to as Brooklyn’s human freakshow, which only begins to cover the reactions people to have Lionel’s disorder.

I have to admit I knew very little about Tourette’s syndrome going into this novel, I knew the effects but I did not fully grasp what was going through mind of someone living with the disorder. One of the things I love most about reading fiction is learning about the lives of people living in different cultures or living a different life than my own. Motherless Brooklyn allowed me to explore life living with Tourette, it was an eye opening novel.

On the surface Motherless Brooklyn is a pretty simple hard-boiled detective novel, but exploring growing up as an orphan in an all-boys home with Tourette’s makes this novel great. Jonathan Lethem is a brilliant writer; he takes a typical genre plot and explores just how complex the story can be. I believe The Fortress of Solitude does this with comic books (similar to The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), Gun, With Occasional Music with science fiction and Chronic City with drug culture. I have not read these books, so I might be wrong; either way I am keen to check them out.

I am so glad to have finally picked up a Jonathan Lethem book and Motherless Brooklyn was the perfect starting point. I wanted to stay in this world for as long as possible, and I ended up slowing down on my reading. I have since discovered to joys of reading slowly with The Valley of the Dolls, but Motherless Brooklyn may have been my starting point. I have no idea which Lethem book to read next, I might have to try to get to all of them. Motherless Brooklyn was a great book and I loved that it was set in a hard-boiled setting. The combination between the genre style and understanding Tourette’s worked really well for this novel; highly recommend Motherless Brooklyn to everyone.


October 2015 Mini Reviews

Posted October 27, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary, Crime, Literary Fiction, Thriller / 2 Comments

October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: World Gone By (Goodreads)
Author: Dennis Lehane
Series: Coughlin #3
Published: William Morrow, 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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Ten years after the events from Living by Night by Dennis Lehane, World Gone By, tells the story of Joe Coughlin in a changing world. Prohibition is now dead, the world is at war again and Joe’s enemies have destroyed his empire and killed his wife. The novel is set in both in Cuba and Ybor City, Florida and World Gone By explores the implications of Joe Coughlin’s past. A novel of crime, revenge and the moral complexity of a criminal past while being a good example for his son.

I am somewhat discontent with the state of popular crime fiction and find myself longing to be surprised. Normally I am a fan of crime novels and like to explore the psychological or gritty nature of the plot. World Gone By seems to offer something different, I did not connect with Living By Night, but the synopsis of its sequel was enough to raise my interest. Sadly, this was unable to deliver, and I felt disconnected to the plot due to the fact that it was overly cliché. I wanted to enjoy this book; the time era and the premise are two elements I love in fiction and I had heard such good things. I need to stop listening to hype, or maybe I should give up on crime fiction all together.


October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Mislaid (Goodreads)
Author: Nell Zink
Published: Fourth Estate, 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Set in 1966, at the campus of Stillwater College, Mislaid tells the story of Peggy. A freshman with literary aspirations, Peggy finds herself falling for Lee, a poet and one of her professors. Peggy falls pregnant and the two end up married. The only problem is, Peggy identifies herself as a lesbian and Lee as gay. This turns into some wry joke; they are an odd couple that has been mislaid.

Nell Zink takes it upon herself to explore the complex issue of sexuality with a mismatched pair stuck in a marriage that neither are interested in. The problem with Mislaid, is that this is such a complex issue and Zink was unable to handle the novel in a way it deserves. From the first chapter when the term ‘Mecca for lesbians’ was used, I felt uneasy about the way the GSM (Gender and/or Sexual Minorities) community was being treated. Then the wit found in Mislaid did not work for the majority of the novel. I was less than impressed with this book; it could have been a great story but nothing seemed to come together the way I expected.


October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico (Goodreads)
Author: Javier Marías
Translator: Esther Allen
Published: New Directions, 1996
Pages: 57
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

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I do not know how I found this little gem, I would like to know who recommended it so I could personally thank them. Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico is a short novella that tells the story of Ruibérriz de Torres who is brought in to translate for Elvis Presley who is in Mexico to film Fun in Acapulco. While in town, Elvis and his entourage, find themselves in a seedy bar where they get into a little trouble with a local kingpin.

Javier Marías has managed to create a punchy story that explores a complex life of a translator, on one hand he has a big famous singer/actor that the world idolises and adores but his entourage has got him into trouble with a crime lord that is feared in Acapulco. Ruibérriz de Torres is stuck in the middle unsure if he should be translating the words that could get everyone into a fight. Should he censor the words for either Elvis or the kingpin just to keep the peace? This novella explores the idea of translations and the second hand nature of words, in a very meta way since this novella was translated from the Spanish into English by Esther Allen. This is only fifty pages long, but manages to explore a complex issue in a very interesting way; I have not been able to stop thinking about the ideas found in Bad Nature, or With Elvis in Mexico.


October 2015 Mini ReviewsTitle: Leaving Berlin (Goodreads)
Author: Joseph Kanon
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Publisher

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Almost four years after World War II, Berlin is a mess, divided in two. The east is occupied but the political ideas from the Soviet Union and the Allies are trying to control the west. This power struggle will later divide Germany into two with the erecting of the Berlin wall in 1961. Alex Meier is a young Jewish writer who managed to flee Nazi Germany to find a home in America. Only he found himself in the crosshairs of Joseph McCarthy during his “Red Scare” witch hunts. Alex and his family are now facing deportation; that was until he was given an alternative by the CIA but is this a solution at all?

The setting for Leaving Berlin is fascinating, the rebuilding and restoration of Germany is interesting enough as it is, but then you have the political struggle and influences of America and the Soviet Union as well. The American propaganda towards communism plays a big part in this espionage novel, and reading a book about a country being torn apart by the Cold War was really interesting. I am very interested in the history behind the Cold War, especially when it comes to the way the media was used to manipulate and of course I am interesting in the Soviet Union. As far as this novel goes, it was entertaining and I enjoyed reading it, however the setting and political history interested me more than the plot. I would have enjoyed a non-fiction novel of post-war Berlin more than Leaving Berlin, but that does not mean I regretted reading it.


By Night In Chile by Roberto Bolaño

Posted October 7, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 6 Comments

By Night In Chile by Roberto BolañoTitle: By Night In Chile (Goodreads)
Author: Roberto Bolaño
Translator: Chris Andrews
Published: Vintage, 2000
Pages: 130
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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In a feverish daze, Jesuit priest Father Urrutia, spends his last night on earth reflecting on his life. By Night in Chile, is a bedside confession, reflecting on not just his involvement with the Opus Dei and Augusto Pinochet. This novella by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, was written as a single paragraph, in which Father Urrutia recaps his entire life in one long monologue.

Roberto Bolaño is one of those authors that I have wanted to read for a very long time. In particular I was interested in reading his two tomes 2666 and The Savage Detectives. The novella opens with the line “I am dying now, but I still have many things to say” and then goes into a rant about the protagonist’s life. A Jesuit priest, poet and literary critic; Father Urrutia is unapologetic about his life; from his involvement with Opus Dei, teaching Augusto Pinochet and even his sexuality.

While this can be viewed as an unremorseful reflection on his life, his memories go from bad to worse as the novella progresses. I spent most of the time reflecting on whether Urrutia’s fever was making him a reliable or unreliable narrator. As Roberto Bolaño is a post-modernist, I think the idea of By Night in Chile is to question the reliability of memories. On one hand if the fever is making the narrator more honest than he should, this novella gives you one idea of the importance of reflection on life. However if the fever was causing hallucinations and making the narrator unreliable, the themes change but still asks some similar questions.

I read this novella in one sitting; I found it a quick reading experience. Reflecting on the book is what was the most time consuming. Roberto Bolaño is an excellent writer and By Night in Chile was worth checking out. Chris Andrews translated the novella from Spanish, who also has a book of literary criticism called Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction. At 130 pages, By Night in Chile allowed me to experience Roberto Bolaño’s style before committing to 2666 or The Savage Detectives, which I think I will push up my own TBR.


10:04 by Ben Lerner

Posted August 5, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

10:04 by Ben LernerTitle: 10:04 (Goodreads)
Author: Ben Lerner
Published: Granta, 2014
Pages: 241
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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10:04 tells of a time with increasingly frequent super storms; the novel is bookended with Hurricanes Irene and Sandy (although they are never referred to by name). Our unnamed narrator has also been diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, which is almost always fatal. Faced with the state of the world and his own mortality, this narrator must question his legacy. Not just biologically but as a writer he must consider what he will leave behind.

A Brooklyn based writer, this narrator starts off early within the novel talking about just what kind of life he has. In one particular passage he describes visiting the Metropolitan Museum, a frequent occurrence, with a friend. “We often visited weekday afternoons, since Alex was unemployed, and I, a writer.” The two like to look at all the melodrama found in the 19th century, in particular his favourite; a painting of Joan of Arc. This passage not only sets up an introduction to our narrator and his female friend Alex but also an indication of what type of novel to expect here.

Ben Lerner has an uncanny ability to write a unique novel that is both beautiful and moving but at the same time remaining hilarious and intelligent. I will admit that the novel did make me feel stupid so many times but I love a book that makes me work to fully grasp it. I always get a real sense of accomplishment when I finish a book like 10:04. For those that are hesitant about reading a book that might make them feel dumb, I think 10:04 is worth the effort and the challenge.

This novel explores a lot of interesting themes from friendship, sex, memory, legacy, art and politics; think of this as a book that explores the landscape of the contemporary life. The narrator is a bit pretentious but then again the circles he hangs out in are full of pseudo-intellectuals. The New York literary scene has been done time and time again, however I am a huge fan of this setting and I think there are so many opportunities to explore interesting ideas. 10:04 did exactly that.

It seems like Ben Lerner is going to be one of those authors that the literary world will need to watch. His first novel Leaving the Atocha Station was met with critical acclaim, showing up on all the major literary magazines’ best books of the year list. A novel I have yet to read but if it is anything like 10:04, I know I will love it. Ben Lerner manages to capture so many emotions in one single narrative, 10:04 is just a great book and I expect to see many more great novels from Ben Lerner in the future.


There But For The by Ali Smith

Posted July 16, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

There But For The by Ali SmithTitle: There But For The (Goodreads)
Author: Ali Smith
Published: Penguin, 357
Pages: 2011
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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A dinner party in a posh home in Greenwich took a sudden turn when Miles, one of the guests, leaves the table mid meal and locks himself in an upstairs room. He refuses leave and the diverse group of neighbours tell their story of the events trying to make sense of Miles motivations. There But For The is told in four points of view: Anna, who is in her forties; Mark, a man in his sixties; May, a woman in her eighties and ten year old Brooke.

Genevieve Lee sets out to host an elaborate dinner in her elegant Greenwich home; her husband Eric has planned to serve scallops and chorizo. However these people are a little different to the people that normally run in the couple’s social circles. The story revolves around Miles Garth who is now an unwanted guest of the Lee’s, after he locked himself away in an upstairs bedroom. However the book really looks at the four narrators and their connection between everyone else.

There tells a story of Anna, a social worker, who knew Miles thirty years ago. Genevieve found her email address in Miles phone and invited her in the hope of persuading him to leave. But follows Mark who is a photo-researcher, who invited Miles to the dinner party. Mark is mourning his old love and, at times, his dead mother speaks to him in rhymes. For is set entirely in the mind of eighty year old May. She is suffering from dementia but also has regular contact with Miles. The revolves around ten year old Brooke, who is the daughter of two of the party guests and the only one that has made contact with Miles since he locked himself in the room.

Where this book shines is in the writing; it is full of what has been now considered Ali Smith’s trademark wit and puns. It is an exploration into humanity, centred on a whimsical yet devastating dinner party. The stand out for me is the way that Smith masterfully used identity shifts and language gaps to explore language in what is essentially a locked-room mystery. This writing style may cause issues for some people but I was just in awe of just how clever If For But The really was.

As this is the first Ali Smith novel that I have read, I am unsure what to say about her as a writer. If all books are anything like If For But The then I would have to call her a master at puns, wordplays, metaphors and pretty much linguistics in general. There is plenty of buzz around her latest book How to Be Both, so I will save my opinion until I have read at least that novel. I am very confident I will be a new fan of Ali Smith but as I say, I have to experience more of her writing.