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The First Person and Other Stories

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,493 ratings  ·  207 reviews
The First Person and other stories effortlessly appeals to our hearts, heads and funny bones. Always intellectually playful, but also very moving and funny, Smith explores the ways and whys of storytelling.
Hardcover, 207 pages
Published October 2nd 2008 by Hamish Hamilton Ltd (first published January 2nd 2008)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  1,493 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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I bought this because I had loved the second story, The Child, which is a straightforward single narrative, with humour and a dark fairytale/magical-realist angle.

Stories 1, 3, and 4 were similar to each other, but utterly unlike that: they play with ways of telling, mixing, and reworking stories, but not in a coherent or enjoyable way. The rest of them continued the theme, with variable results. Overall, disappointing.

Image: Shuffling a deck (Source.)

True Short Story, 2*
This would be OK as a pr
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh my God, I haven’t written a review in here for so long that I’ve almost forgotten how to go about it. But I’ve just read this collection of short stories by Ali Smith that I absolutely must enthuse briefly about!

It is my first encounter with Ms. Smith, and I rushed out and bought another collection by her immediately aften finishing this (being in London over Easter, an English bookstore was at hand. An aside: oh, why did I have to go back home?!)

However, I actually began rereading this firs
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2019
I have now read all of Ali Smith's novels and short stories. This is another fine collection which showcases most aspects of her writing - the stories vary from the almost factual to the surreal (in one the narrator meets her 14-year old self). As always there is plenty of humour, wordplay and erudition, and the collection is a very enjoyable read. ...more
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"You’re not the first person who was ever wounded by love. You’re not the first person who ever knocked on my door. You’re not the first person I ever chanced my arm with. You’re not the first person I ever tried to impress with my brilliant performance of not really being impressed with anything. You’re not the first person to make me laugh. You’re not the first person I ever made laugh. You’re not the first person full stop. But you’re the one right now. I’m the one right now."

I read this in
I have not read Ali Smith before picking up this collection of short stories. I am a fan of the short story, and it is always a delight to see an author who not only still practices this form, but also does it well. While in the case of Ali Smith the result is a mixed bag, I have enjoyed reading her stories and will read more of her work in the future.

The First Person and Other Stories contains 12 very different stories. The opening one, "True Short Story" is one of the more interesting; the nar
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Imagine this would be possible: your present self living for a few days/hours with your 14 year old self. Like literally! What conversation would you have with such a younger version of yourself?
It is shocking to see yourself as you haven’t been for nearly thirty years. It is also a bit embarrassing, having yourself around, watching your every move as watching your every move is the last thing that could possibly interest anyone.

Your younger self makes insolence a thing of beauty, she looks
Dec 31, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Ali Smith's stories. They are inventive, fun, generous, open, insightful, thought-provoking ... I could go on and on. I'd read three of these online before and they were a pleasure to read again.

The first five of the collection are strong (so are a couple of the later ones) and my favorite has to be "Fidelio and Bess," a story that interweaves the story of a present-day couple with the story in Beethoven's only opera and the story in the Gershwin opera to great effect: I thought about it
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
2015: I read the entirety of this sitting in the library in Bury St Edmunds, and loved every word.

2017: It feels so wonderful that I have the opportunity to reread this collection, and include it in my thesis.
MJ Nicholls
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
A ragbag of tales here, ranging from the directly emotional (‘True Short Story’ and the title piece), to the intellectually playful (‘Fidelio and Bess’ and ‘Astute Fiery Luxurious’) to the downright hilarious and strange (‘The Child’ and ‘No Exit’). When I first read Ali Smith I was unimpressed (hence this two-rating of Other Stories) and narked at her constant inclusion of the reader as a character—most of the first-person stories replace a character name with ‘you,’ which I found a contrived p ...more
Barry Pierce
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it
I always find short story collections hard to review. What can I say? Some stories were great! and some stories were so-so. I've always enjoyed Ali Smith's unique prose and her characters are always believable, even when she writes of foul mouth children or the such. I liked this collection, although I find hard not to like anything that Ali Smith writes. ...more
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This collection is so fresh and offbeat it makes other story collections feel recycled. How do I explain these stories? I feel like I was invited to the table of the most interesting and unusual person/couple in a restaurant. The stories left me shaking my head or smiling. Or both.
Eunice Moral
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Weirdly satisfying read.

I have vowed to read works of Ali Smith. I don’t know why, but I feel like it is very essential for every reader to read her works. Funny when I say this, because I wasn’t exposed to any of her works before. I never even have met a person so passionate about her books but there was this unshakeable feeling at the recesses of my being telling me to read her works or I will regret it for the rest of my life. And so here we are. I am an Ali Smith virgin no more, and I am bey
Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
My dog has been waking me up every two or three hours every night. Last night she was licking her water bowl and dragging it across the floor, so I filled it then went back to bed; then she woke me up two hours later 'cause she had to pee, and then she woke me up two more hours later because she was excited and wanted to jump on my face and dig into my skull like there was peanut butter in there. Did you know they've done science experiments with sleep where they interrupt your sleep a bunch of ...more
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
4 days: I think this is the fastest I've ever read a full short stories collection, because I usually like to take a short break after one or two, let them swirl nicely in my head first, before plunging back into the rest. But Ali Smith's short stories are shorter than most that I've read from other authors, and she really organises them meaningfully in this collection so that they flow very well together with tight overarching themes.

Perhaps inevitably, I looooove some of these stories, feel mi
Dec 30, 2014 rated it liked it
Halfway through reading this I started daydreaming that one day I might run into Ali Smith in a British pub and I'd try to buy her a drink and she'd accept but gently in the flow of the conversation remind me that she's almost the same age as my mother and not much inclined to go to bed with readers regardless. And even her rejection would leave me with the kind of sweet soreness that would have me send some kind of starry-eyed email a week later and then I'd forget I'd said anything until the n ...more
Claire Fuller
I feel like there might be something wrong with me that I don't seem to be getting on well with Ali Smith. I read Autumn, and although I gave it five stars I can't remember it at all. I picked up this to see what I thought of her short stories, but I found it too aware of itself, too clever for clever's sake, rather than the story's sake. All the way through I was aware of the writer. I can only suppose that's deliberate - I'm sure Smith knows exactly what she's doing - but it's not really for m ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have mixed feelings about The First Person & other stories. Some short stories I absolutely loved, and some I’m not even sure I understood or if they were even meant to make sense in the first place. But short story collections are always wonderful to explore and I managed to track down some common themes in this one as well.
I loved how the author told stories within stories. I loved her narratives and the use of “you”. Most of the stories were shown instead of told which is the best a story
Katie Lumsden
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Maybe 3.5. This one was a bit of a mix for me, and not as strong as the other collection of hers I've read (Other Stories and Other Stories). There were some brilliant ones in the second half of the collection, especially 'The First Person', 'No exit', 'The history of histories' and 'Writ', but the first
five stories out of the 12 weren't nearly as strong for me.
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, unusual, inventive short stories.
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to sappho_reader by: Jen Campbell
Ali Smith is clearly talented. I recently loved her novel There But for the although I don't think I understood absolutely every point that she made. I received the same response with this collection of short stories. There are preposterous situations in these stories that I loved: a baby suddenly appears in a woman's shopping cart at the grocery store; a woman suddenly gets up in the middle of a movie and goes through the emergency exit that is not really an exit at all; a boy returns home from ...more
Ashish Kumar
I think short stories are the kind of art my "little" brain doesn't comprehends. And also short stories are not the best place to start if you are looking to read new authors. Its my first Ali Smith's book and i ddin't like it. There are 11 stories in this collection and out of which i only liked 3 : THE CHILD, THE THIRD PERSON, THE PRESENT.
All the other stories ( including THE FIRST PERSON on which the title of the book is based ) were boring, without any logic or at least i didn't get the log
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,5/5 excellent short stories, I do love Ali Smith's writing ! ...more
Ahhh, Ali Smith. Parts of this were fantastic, other parts I felt kind of bored. Not as good as Public Library and Other Stories (in my opinion), but definitely worth checking out if you like her writing. Looking forward to reading more of her short stories soon! ...more
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Ali Smith book, and now I see what all the fuss has been about. If you admire Cate Kennedy, Lydia Davis, Miranda July, and/or Kevin Brockmeier, Smith shares something with all of these writers--but first and foremost, she rocks a style all her own. She writes with a fierce, intelligent delight, and her stories are whimsical yet urgent; they move at a clip, then suddenly slow you down. Smith has that rare gift for literalizing metaphors (like sitting down with your 14-year-old s ...more
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first story in this collection is a short story about short stories and includes a collection of quotes about the short story from famous writers. So meta, so clever, a short story lover's dream. The Third Person, Fidelo & Bess, The Second Person, Writ and The First Person were my favorites. They're all little treasures that bend the rules for what a short story is and should be while subverting all your expectations. At times like listening in on someone else's private conversation, at time ...more
Dec 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories, here, y2016
not my favourite ali smith, but still charming and funny and smart.
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Even with the stories that didn't do much for me I was just amazed by Smith's writing. How is it possible to write so well. ...more
Anastasiya Mozgovaya
experimental & exciting. thoughtful & touching. one million per cent unique.
There is only one writer and her name is Ali Smith.
Jun 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I did enjoy this collection of short stories, I have tried to read her work a couple of times without success, I don’t know what it is because I do recognise her talent but I get very lost very quickly when I start reading her novels. But I did like those short stories, they made sense but still kept the magic, sensitive, quirky touches of Ali Smith.
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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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“The novel, he was saying, was a flabby old whore.

A flabby old whore! the older man said looking delighted.

She was serviceable, roomy, warm and familiar, the younger was saying, but really a bit used up, really a bit too slack and loose.

Slack and loose! the older said laughing.

Whereas the short story, by comparison, was a nimble goddess, a slim nymph. Because so few people had mastered the short story she was still in very good shape.

...I idly wondered how many of the books in my house were fuckable and how good they'd be in bed.”
“The third person is another pair of eyes. The third person is a presentiment of God. ...... a way to tell the story.

It's a box for the endless music that's there between people, waiting to be played.”
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