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There but for the

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  7,916 ratings  ·  1,129 reviews
There but for the is the sparkling satirical novel by bestselling Ali Smith. 'There once was a man who, one night between the main course and the sweet at a dinner party, went upstairs and locked himself in one of the bedrooms of the house of the people who were giving the dinner party . . .' As time passes by and the consequences of this stranger's actions ripple outwards ...more
Hardcover, 357 pages
Published June 2nd 2011 by Hamish Hamilton
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Mark I'd bet that Ali Smith wants you to feel awkward. There are times when I've re-read a passage, placing the quotes back in the text for clarity. She wa…moreI'd bet that Ali Smith wants you to feel awkward. There are times when I've re-read a passage, placing the quotes back in the text for clarity. She wants us to be unsure: sometimes a tree is history, and we don't know it until we learn more. (And if you get to the last chapter, you'll know what I'm referring to.)(less)
Mark Based on a Google Translate rendering of your question: "Is there a syntax error in the title "That fact"?" (I think Google didn't pick up the book's …moreBased on a Google Translate rendering of your question: "Is there a syntax error in the title "That fact"?" (I think Google didn't pick up the book's phrase "The fact is...")

A central pillar of Ali Smith's writing is wordplay. In English usage, the phrase "The fact is..." acts as an intensifier of whatever statement follows. It is a fairly common usage, and Brooke is exactly the sort of person that would latch on to it to get adults to LISTEN TO HER! Strict grammar would be "The fact is that..." where "that" acts as a wrapper for the complete thought that follows.(less)

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Average rating 3.47  · 
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*floating this to irritate the person who irritated me with her comment.*

i did this book a great disservice.

at first, i plowed through it like a maniac, loving every minute of it. then, i put it down for about two days and totally lost my momentum, and when i returned, the shine was off the apple.

completely my fault.

it has been nearly a week since i have written a book review, and this feels like a less-than-triumphant return, but it is fitting - i need to be punished for my weekend hedonism an
Reviewed in February 2013

There is no doubt in my mind that Ali Smith is a fine writer, a reader’s writer, maybe even a writer’s writer, although I suspect there are writers out there who think she makes it all look as easy as an unmade bed. There you go, people differ hugely in what they rate as interesting or significant, but whatever kind of writer Smith is, she’s definitely my kind, and for the long term. There will be, I hope, many more of her books to enjoy in the years to come. There's a p
There might have been other ways to write this book, perhaps. Siri Hustvedt, for instance, would have made all the disparate perspectives mirror an overarching preoccupation with the self, nearly indistinguishable from each other in terms of their pedantic, self righteous theorizings. She would have hurled fact after fact which lead up to some grandiose declaration, impatient to broadcast the breadth and depth of her scholastic achievements, her research. A character's whiteness, blackness, woma ...more
Jan 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Will you remember me in a months time?
Will you remember me in 6 months time?
Will you remember me in a years time?
Will you remember me in 2 years time?
Will you remember me in 3 years time?
Knock knock.
Who's there?
See, you've forgotten me already.

I used to work at a video store in college. It was a small mom and pop shop, and it was a great place to work. Since it was such a small operation, there were only a handful of other employees and I knew everyone pretty well. So you can
MJ Nicholls
Oct 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, hoots-mon, distaff
I hate to resort to crude Americanisms, but Ali Smith is the motherfucking BOMB. Her latest novel, circa October 2011, shares a structure all but identical to The Accidental—four sections with little one-two-page prefaces—but also shares its masterful grasp over narrative voice, language, style, humour, and subtly heartbreaking strangeness.

The title refers to the first word in a significant phrase deployed in each section of the novel. For example, in the first part ‘There I was’ is used when th
I'm going to start ignoring ratings. Not stop using them, but ignore them, for there is my own and then there are others and neither should have anything to do with the other, really. Humanity gets me but it's the humans that get me in two senses of the word that both don't directly point out the to get in to get. I got this book, someone got my money, somewhere together we're getting.

I thought this book would be harder. I thought I would have trouble. I thought I wouldn't be reading Women and M
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the clever-clever cleverest
There But For The is stylized, literary fiction. It makes extensive use of:
text messages
handwritten notes

The fact is, imagine a man sitting on an exercise bike in a spare room. He’s a pretty ordinary man except that across his eyes and also across his mouth it looks like he’s wearing letterbox flaps. Look closer and his eyes and mouth are both separately covered by little grey rectangles. They’re like the censorship strips t
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Life-as-lived, 'Amores Perros"-turn-of-century multi-structured-prism. Ali Smith is the Virginia Woolf of our times (23% Wilde satirist)--i.e. Modernist! Her brush strokes are irreverent (also British!) in One V. Solid Faulkerian Experiment. Smith evokes the sensation of absorbing everything while reading about nothing; she succeeds in immersing us fully in her deviations from standard plot or character (but remaining faithful to tropes, like the man hidden within the house, the sensitive vision ...more
Paul Bryant
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
I bought this for the princely sum of 99p which is just under $1.30 in real money. It was a brand spanking new hardback (original retail price £16.99!) for sale in my local Oxfam shop. “What is going on?” I thought, using inverted commas. “All these used skronky paperbacks are for £2 and £3 and here are a shelf of brand new hardbacks seemingly untouched by human hand for 99p. The world has gone mad.”

As it happens my daughter recently began volunteering in shops just like this one, so I asked he

is no there there, Gertrude Stein famously wrote in 1937, a sentence that loops back on itself in order to question its own grammar. Maybe what she meant was that the first there has no antecedent. But the sentence also pushes out, questions the world, questions the idea of a place in time, a time in place, that exists only because it is not here, relatively speaking.

This novel has a similar trajectory. Broken down into four sections titled There, But, For, and The, it tells an abstract sto
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
said John Bradford. A sentence merely nine words long, yet easily conveying a quality hard to come by. The ability to understand another’s misfortune when one could ignore it and keep going their own merry way. The ability to reach out to another via an empathetic bridge, instead of only offering sympathy.The humility and acceptance that not every shoe is meant to fit a special Cinderella, being in another’s shoes is a common fate.

There but for the, a novel
Dec 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're new to Ali Smith and think you might like her (I can easily see that she's not everyone's 'thing'), read her brilliant short stories, or the novels Hotel World or The Accidental first. I loved those.

And if you have read all of Ali Smith, as I have, I think you will find that this book is merely okay, even tedious near the end, and that maybe instead it could've been another brilliant short story. Because what feels like excessive padding and way too much language-play (especially with
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
Ali Smith is my favorite contemporary writer, and this book reminded me why.
Oct 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tony by: Fionnuala
Shelves: top-10-2013, scottish
There are things I now know. I now know that rabbits like licorice. I now know that Harold Arlen couldn't think of a middle-eight for the song he was writing, Somewhere Over the Rainbow. But he had a little, badly-behaved dog that kept running away. So he whistled for the dog to come back: De da de da de da de da. And now we all sing: Some day I'll wish upon a star.

But I don't know why Miles Garth left the dinner party and went upstairs and locked himself in the guest room. And I don't know why
Rakhi Dalal
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“Imagine if all the civilizations in the past had not known to have the imagination to look up at the sun and the moon and the stars and work out that things were connected, that those things right in front of their eyes could be connected to time and to what time is and how it works.”

Imagine the things in front of our eyes connected to time, to what time is and how it works in connection with memories of past or moments of present or thoughts about the future. The time; dictated by the sun and
I just... don't know. I don't know about this book. Believe me when I say that I really wanted to love it. I 'saved' it for some time before beginning, and when I didn't feel much into it on the first try, I left it for a while and tried again. Everything (the premise, Smith's reputation, great reviews in the press and here on Goodreads) suggested it would be a wonderful, even revelatory read, and yet... I mean, maybe I've shot myself in the foot by reading so many books this year. Maybe I've go ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
"But the fact is, how do you know anything is true? Duh, obviously, records and so on, but how do you know that the records are true? Things are not just true because the internet says they are. Really the phrase should be, not the fact is, but the fact seems to be."

It is incredibly difficult to write about Ali Smith's books. I mean where do you start? Plots are not what they seem. Plots are merely vehicles to convey sub-plots, ideas, sentiments, and impressions of the world around us.

So writ
Once there was an anchorite, a cleverist, a once upon a time, and a woman lost in the confines of her head.

“There was once, and there was only once; once was all there was.”

There but for the grace of god go I….
This is about compassion, empathy, understanding, putting yourself in another’s shoes.
Walk a mile in his shoes.
Miles’ shoes. It's about Miles. Miles of Miles. Miles towards Miles. Miles is miles away.

Anna did it. She was overwhelmed in others' shoes. Words words words.
“…the woman who h
Barry Pierce
Feb 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Another great one from Smith. I would recommend this book on the basis of the fantastic conversion on art history in the middle of this alone. Smith's profound and incredibly unique narrative voice is ever present here. Very enjoyable. ...more
Oct 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
Oh, Ali Smith. You are an infuriating lover.

I know Frustration is half the fun. And I had so much fun.

But could you please just TRY to write in goddamned paragraphs?

I saw and felt the Disorientation, Stream of Consciousness and Frustration.

But I majored in poetry, and therefore I do not believe but KNOW that space allows for lyricism in all the ways your Matrix layout did not.

It's just a suggestion. Because otherwise I loved it all.

And to be honest, I don't know if I know how to love you with
Mar 06, 2012 rated it liked it
What was wrong with me when I first read this? I still prefer other Smith novels but it’s far from bad.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When we think of Ali Smith, we think of the stylistic wordplay and humor, but I think she also is one of the better authors for reflecting characteristics of the present day human condition.
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
There is a story here
But it is swaddled in word play
For these brain exercises help to force the mind open, and
The fact is, “…sometimes what’s real is very difficult to put into words.”

A unique, alternatively frustrating and delightful reading experience. It felt very personal, like I could see myself in each of the characters. Smith is razor sharp, witty, and imaginative, and covers lots of ground here, particularly social issues of acceptance and stereotypes and what it feels like to be an outs
Nov 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I just want to hug this book. That incredibly rare thing, in the 2010s, a totally contemporary novel that isn't cynical or bitter or cute. Clever, yes. Very.

What's it about? I'm not sure I can articulate an answer. It might be about martyrdom. Or it might be about losing one's humanity, and trying to get it back. Or it might be about boredom and frustration and loss. It might be about horrible dinner parties filled with dreary backward privelged snobs. Or it might be about compassion, fell
Apr 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was robbed by a British author. Not cool, Ali Smith. The masses were bleating favorably about the novel “There But For The” and frankly the premise seemed so intriguing: A man at a dinner party with a collection of strangers gets up, goes upstairs and locks himself in a spare room -- luckily one with a bathroom, unfortunately at a house not very sympathetic to his vegetarian diet. He refuses to come out for days, for weeks, until he becomes a folk hero and the locals camp out and wait for a gl ...more
Noah Nichols
If you played a drinking game while reading this awful novel—taking just a swig of beer for every time the word 'says' is said, you'd be dead. D. E. A. D. No joke. So I wouldn't advise it. I'm convinced that a quarter of the drab content (79,360 words in total apparently) consists of says/said. Is Ali Smith allergic to variety?? Anyway. Here's a helpful hint to the author: when a character asks a question, have them ask it. Don't have them SAY it! This happens constantly. Illogical and irritatin ...more
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is another one of those books getting good reviews, but for me, it didn't live up to the hype. This isn't your typical book in that there's not a plot per se. The author sometimes does away with punctuation and linear notions, and even though it centers around Miles Garth who locks himself up in a guest room during a dinner party, we never truly learn about him or his motivations.

Instead, we get the perspectives of four different people who had a brief interaction with him. Mostly, each nar
Sometimes you just read a book that makes you say BLAAARRGH SO GOOD!!!!

and for me this was one of those books. I've placed Ali Smith into the mad genius category.

As suggested by the titular adage of "there but for the [grace of god go I/we]"... this is a book about time, history, memory, chance/coincidence, staying vs. going/leaving, loss generally, and, most importantly, empathy. But delivered, of course, "Ali Style." So, the framework of the novel, on which these themes hang, is that a dinner
You're going to have to help me out with this one, because my Not A Real Reader neurosis has turned out in droves. What's the deal with this book?

This is my first foray into Ali Smith's fiction, and I've variously heard her described as experimental, one of fiction's enthusiasts, erudite and off-beat, and groundbreaking. This book in particular is apparently "sparklingly satirical". Did someone replace it with a different book when I wasn't looking? I'm not asking for a State of the Nation addre
Lori Anaple
Nov 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
I guess I am in the minority here. I didn't even finish the book. I can live without a plot per se. I can live with the absence of paragraphs, I can live with the lack of quotation marks to indicate conversation. But all of these things must tie together with the "want" of me to read more. I simply wasn't invested in this story that wasn't about the guy who locked himself in a spare bedroom. That is right sportsfans. The book isn't about what it is supposed to be about. But even that I could hav ...more
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Ali Smith is a writer, born 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 how it for ...more

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