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really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,228 Ratings  ·  184 Reviews
"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 eit
ebook, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2013 by Penguin Press (first published November 1st 2012)
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Apr 19, 2015 BrokenTune rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, favorites
"All of it? I say.
Lucky for you the ands are ampersands, you say.
You are calling my bluff, of course. I call yours back. I take the book to the tattoo parlour down Mill Road and come home, after several sessions, with exactly this tattoo. I choose to have it done in deep blue, the colour of your eyes. It costs me a fortune. It hurts like irony.
I see you again only when it's finished and my skin settled down.
You're unreal, you say when you see it.
You're the real unreal thing all right.
Less than a
MJ Nicholls
Oct 12, 2012 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extended Smith short story, wrapped like bacon around the sausage of her illuminating Oxford lectures, makes up this debut non-fiction collection from the Best Living Scottish Novelist (caps mean cred). Her trope of using the second person to address an absent presence (in this case, Smith is the one being addressed, by her partner) returns, fortunately intermittent between the otherwise un-tampered-with content of her brief lectures. Not unlike Adam Thirlwell’s grandiose Miss Herbert in its ...more
helen the bookowl
Mar 11, 2017 helen the bookowl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
1.5/5 stars.
While I liked the concept of this book - which is that it is based on 4 different university lectures given my Ali Smith - and while some passages were thought-provoking and interesting, this just wasn't a book for me. I have to say that I actually found it a bit pretentious. It's a long piece of work on thoughts and digressions on, amongst other things, time and form, and these thoughts connect with a lot of literature (too much of it!) to be consistent and make sense, in my eyes.
Stephen P
Jan 27, 2013 Stephen P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: interiority, memoir
There are books which through the softness of their sound, their words dipping into portals unseen that quiver upon memory and a haze of further meanings, set me into a mode of creative inquiry. A different state of being finding anything else an intrusion while seeking seclusion. The book has become a place I seek; wordless and serene. The early morning flower cupping the first rays of sun.

A sensitive mind filled with graceful thought faces the devastation of loss through her readings of litera
Jan 15, 2013 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book of lectures made me want to reread Oliver Twist and since I'm not likely to do that anytime soon, I looked in my copy to see if Mudfog is mentioned or not mentioned in the very first paragraph and wondered if at the time I read it, I noticed that the Artful Dodger has dodged the summation of the last chapter.

Ali Smith is a genius, but not one of those geniuses who makes things hard to understand (dare I mention The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction), instead
Mar 01, 2016 Neil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review will be just two quotes lifted out of this amazing book.

"All the time I read this book I felt it was feeding me".


"We do treat books surprisingly lightly in contemporary culture. We’d never expect to understand a piece of music on one listen, but we tend to believe we’ve read a book after reading it just once."

Enough said. 5 stars. Straight to the top of my "To Be Reread" list.
Nov 24, 2014 Antonomasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: I love the cover.
Jan/Feb 2015. [4.5]

(Truly Madly Deeply x The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas) + fragments of essays on literature = Artful

Just lovely! I got it because it was my favouritest book cover I’d seen in ages (as said elsewhere, I don’t like many recent covers). The content wasn’t what I expected, but was, if anything, even nicer.

I daresay some friends have also had the experience that if something external makes you miserable whilst you’re reading a particular book, it often isn’t the right book any
Ned Rifle
Jan 14, 2013 Ned Rifle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-library
I saw you last night, though you are now far away. I saw you and you saw what I was reading. You said you'd seen these lectures delivered. You looked appalled when I said that I really wasn’t enjoying them, and you chided me for my ignorance before asking why. As I rifled through the pages of the book looking for examples, another old friend came in and said what a great book it was. My frustration grew as I found it impossible to focus on the words, impossible to find anything at all in this, m ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book is a wee bit confusing. It is based on a series of lectures the author did at St. Anne's College at Oxford, but it is also a story of loss from the perspective of the left-behind lover of the dead lecturer. Except the author herself is the lecturer. You can see how this might be confusing.

There are a lot of literary and art references, all of which are highly documented in the back (including full-color photos!). I'm not sure I got a lot out of it, not nearly as much as I would have e
Mar 06, 2013 Judith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A blow-away book, this British novelist's 2012 Weidenfeld Lectures on comparative literature at Cambridge. A glancing sensibility, full of puns that lead to deeper thoughts in 4 lectures On Time, On Form, On Edge... For example, she asks us to consider in the Time section that literary time is not just sequence, but consequence; she brilliantly relates the root of "kindness" to family, old German kind, kinder, etc. Graspable literary reflections that stimulate and puzzle, contained within a fram ...more
Paul Fulcher
It would maybe have been better if you could have come back from the dead a little differently. I mean if you could have come back as an array of different yous, like anyone with the originality of you when you were alive should naturally have done; for instance, if you'd come back as a dog, a mythical sort of one, one that could speak and would even occasionally do my bidding, occasionally sit at the table with me and converse while we ate our dinner, or if you'd come back as a small star, or a ...more
Vivek Tejuja
Jan 11, 2017 Vivek Tejuja rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The more I read interesting and different forms of the novel, the more I am convinced that the book cannot die. It shouldn’t and it will not. Reading will never go out of style, and Ali Smith is one of those authors that keep proving this time and again. I started reading her when I was about twenty four or so and haven’t stopped since then. All her books are quirky and have this mischief sense about them. This is what attracts me most to her books and her writing. If a writer can make me want t ...more

I enjoyed this because of its unique structure. It's really 4 essays, but also 4 sections of a novel. It crosses narrative with philosophical examinations of time, form, edge, and offering & reflection.

While I didn't understand some of it, I felt very enthralled by the way she weaves the genres. It is a quick read, intriguing, and insightful. Many great allusions to literature, film, art, etc.
May 21, 2015 Arta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, uni
3.5 stars
John Madera
May 23, 2017 John Madera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ali Smith's Artful artfully blurs the boundaries between ghost tale, memoir, and art and literary criticism, its glosses on work by Dickens, Stevens, Michelangelo, Carrington, Miłosz, Eluard, and many others, equally playful and illuminating, the strange conversations between the narrator and her dead lover reminding me of DeLillo's The Body Artist, her attempts to make sense of her lover's unfinished notes for lectures reminiscent of Angela Woodward's Natural Wonders: A Novel, where a widow ass ...more
Ian Young
Mar 12, 2013 Ian Young rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Artful by Ali Smith is based on four lectures which she delivered at Oxford University. It does not fall easily into any single genre – I would categorize it as a blend of literary criticism, essay and fiction. It is therefore an unusual book and also one that demands careful reading.

The central conceit is that the narrator is mourning the loss of her partner. We encounter the narrator always on her own, in the home which she shared with her partner or on a visit to a hotel where they used to ho
Feb 18, 2013 Mac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sadness while experiencing the narrator's grief over loss of a partner...appreciation for the author's range of in reading the quotations and ideas expressed...admiration for the book's combining fiction and essay, story and critique, within an inventive structure...wonder at how the book forced me to consider my own experiences beyond those described in this series of four lectures (yes, the book is a collection of lectures presented in a fiction/essay format)...bafflement at no ...more
Jul 15, 2013 Liam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book so fucking much, but possibly more for how it pandered to my particular needs/cultural capital than any intrinsic excellence. Canonical poetry and Beyoncé and Tove Jansson and Katherine Mansfield and Chaplin all get thrown in to ballast a signal-switching discussion about art and loss and carrying on and knowing people, and there's enough recognized cleverness and enough pointing-me-in-the-direction of things I now wish to read, and this thing is just really lovely and I'm sorr ...more
Aseem Kaul
Apr 13, 2013 Aseem Kaul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, essay, criticism
Ali Smith's Artful is a book that doesn't just beggar description, it picks description's pocket and goes off laughing to the bank while poor old description stands on the street patting itself all over and wondering what just happened. At once a lyrical work of fiction and an insightful meditation on art, the four 'lectures' collected in Artful combine wit, criticism, philosophy, poetry and humor into a heady concoction guaranteed to delight anyone who loves books, painting, or film, of, for th ...more
Jan 22, 2017 Yvonne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theory
What a reading experience! My to-read-list has just grown enormously... I guess to get the full impact of this book I'll need to re-read it several times plus read a lot of the works Ali Smith makes references to. I love the mix between essay and fiction... the plot is really sad but not in a cliché kind of way. It is a book about loss but even more, I feel, about enrichment through art... what art can offer (and yes, in the sense it is described in the book). I am overwhelmed and can only recom ...more
Josh Friedlander
Bold, fascinating blend of short story, poem and literary essay, adapting a Comp Lit lecture into a meditation on loss and the power of art. The ubiquity of references - down to genealogies of quotes and names of translators - detracts a little from the power of the book, which anyway feels a little slight, and a little too dependent on the ideas of others. But this is still an unusual and powerful work.
Mind the Book
"Books need time to dawn on us, it takes time to understand what makes them, structurally, in thematic resonance, in afterthought, and always in correspondence with the books which came before them...

Visste att det var en essässamling jag hade framför mig. Var inte beredd på att det skulle handla så mycket om sorgebearbetning efter en älskad anhörig. Noterade en del diktrader och romantitlar under läsningen.
Jan 25, 2013 Oriana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-soon
From a review by Word Bookstore: Smith's masterful fiction is not widely known in the U.S., but it should be. Her latest is a nonfiction rumination on the power and importance of art and storytelling. Creative nonfiction at its finest, this one reminds me of one of my other favorite British literary stylists, Jeanette Winterson.
Jan 10, 2016 Miglė rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2016
Dear Ali Smith, this is only a second book of yours that I have read, but you have completely won me over.
Aug 06, 2015 Isabel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2016
"Wherever you are all the trees above your head are flowering" (188).
Emily-Jane Orford

Ali Smith’s Artful
Reviewed by
Emily-Jane Hills Orford
Award-winning author of The Whistling Bishop and F-Stop: A Life in Pictures

Artful, as in Artful Dodger: the dodgy, illusive, almost timeless character in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Timeless? Well he can’t be more than about twelve and yet he dresses and carries the airs and dignities of a gentleman robber of at least twice his age. He breezes into the story with great panache and exits it just as mysteriously
Jun 18, 2015 Tilly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The best horror movies frequently derive their haunting authority from their ambiguity. Think American Psycho, The Thing; the reason Rosemary's Baby suddenly got a lot less scary once we get our glimpse into the pram. There's something about being forced to hold the rational alongside the irrational that makes the whole experience stretch larger in our minds. That process of screen interrogation alongside self-interrogation, sorting out the degree to which our own sensibilities will all
Jul 15, 2016 Kirsty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
It is a fair comment to say that Ali Smith is one of the most exciting contemporary authors writing today. Her prose is often stylistically exciting and she crafts her characters wonderfully and originally.

Artful is marketed as ‘part fiction, part essay, a revelation of what writing can do’. This is true to a point. A fictional story runs concurrently with a lot of factual information pertaining to literature and its writers, all of the material of which has been adapted from four lectures which
This fine exercise in genre-bending might interest those who appreciate art and academia and who also love a luxurious and artfully told story. Smith’s book is on the surface a collection of four essays, which were given as lectures at Oxford, but they are linked together by an elaborate and powerful frame story involving a lover exploring the writing, indeed the intellectual interior of her dead lover, as it appeared on her dead lover’s desk. Her grief draws her into the deceased’s intellectual ...more
I won a copy of Artful by Ali Smith from a firstreads giveaway, and once I started it, I couldn't put it down. As a reader, you can get a sense of how well-read an author is, but rarely do you a get a chance to see who-read an author is. Smith intertwines her commentary on works of art and literature, with a first-person narrative of a person recovering from the loss of a spouse. The narrator (for simplicity, I will use female pronouns, I don't recall there is an explicit gender) is haunted by h ...more
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  • Living, Thinking, Looking: Essays
  • Karaoke Culture
  • On Poetry
  • And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos
  • Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers
  • Microscripts
  • A Place in the Country
  • Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture
  • Where the Stress Falls: Essays
  • Where I'm Reading From: The Changing World of Books
  • MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction
  • The Gentle Art of Making Enemies
  • Visual And Other Pleasures
  • Things That Are
  • The Nearest Thing to Life
  • Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003
  • Findings
  • Textermination
Ali Smith is a writer, born in 1962 in Inverness, Scotland, to working-class parents. She was raised in a council house in Inverness and now lives in Cambridge. She studied at Aberdeen, and then at Cambridge, for a Ph.D. that was never finished. In a 2004 interview with writing magazine Mslexia, she talked briefly about the difficulty of becoming ill with chronic fatigue syndrome for a year and ho ...more
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“To be known so well by someone is an unimaginable gift. But to be imagined so well by someone is even better.” 56 likes
“The thing about trees is that they know what to do. When a leaf loses its colour, it's not because its time is up and it's dying, it's because the tree is taking back into itself the nutrients the leaf's been holding in reserve for it, out there on the twig, and why leaves change colour in autumn is because the tree is preparing for winter, it's filling itself with its own stored health so it can withstand the season. Then, clever tree, it literally pushes the used leaf off with the growth that's coming behind it. But because that growth has to protect itself through winter too, the tree fills the little wound in its branch or twig where the leaf was with a protective corky stuff which seals it against cold and bacteria.

Otherwise every leaf lost would be an open wound on a tree and a single tree would be covered in thousands of little wounds.

Clever trees.”
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