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The First Person and Other Stories

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  999 Ratings  ·  141 Reviews
The First Person and Other Stories is the fourth collection of short stories by Ali Smith.

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. In one, a middle-aged woman conducts a poignant conversation with her gauch
Paperback, 206 pages
Published May 28th 2009 by Penguin (first published January 2nd 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 at
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
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.
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 very 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 ab
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
Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Katie Lumsden
Sep 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Barry Pierce
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.
MJ Nicholls
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
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
4,5/5 excellent short stories, I do love Ali Smith's writing !
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 st
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
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
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 ...more
Cristina Leitón
Dec 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Ay, Ali. Te quiero.
Dec 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, here, 2016
not my favourite ali smith, but still charming and funny and smart.
Jun 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009, 2010, short-stories
True Short Story
I really loved this. It was short, believable and poignant. I loved the link with the Echo/Narcissus myth - it's one of my favourite of the Greek myths and I loved the relevance it had to the story overall. I really loved the last few lines: "So when is a short story like a nymph? When the echo of it answers back." I really loved that. 5/5

The Child
I loved the humour in this one! So funny. For all the wrong reasons of course but you know, sometimes the wrong reasons are the r
I not an expert as far as short stories are considered. Generally its a slog for me to get through a collection of them. While I've read this one only in 3 sittings.
Some stories, especially the first one "True short story" are the ones where Smith is at her best, witty, though provoking, touching and funny. There is a couple of those stories here. There are also some stories that are so-so. That's why I always find it a bit hard to rate a short story collection...
Edward S. Portman
Il fatto di averlo letto in poco più di due giorni scarsi, complice anche l’essermi trovato a casa senza gran che da fare, non può che deporre a favore di questo lavoro di Ali Smith. È vero: il numero di pagine non è poi così impressionante e allo stesso tempo si tratta di una raccolta di racconti, ma non sempre questi due aspetti permettono di appassionarsi così tanto a una lettura. La scrittrice britannica riesce a catturare l’attenzione del lettore e lo porta a planare leggero sui suoi raccon ...more
Kiera Healy
The problem with short story collections is that they can be so hit and miss, and that is definitely true here. I was indifferent to many of Smith's pieces, and some (True Short Story and The Child, for example) erred too far on that side of that overly knowing, smug cleverness of many modern literary short stories. I don't want to read something that smacks me over the head with just how damn literary it is; I want to read something good.

Fortunately, there is some good stuff here. I particularl
I've read some Ali Smith before, both novels and short story collections, so I knew what I was getting into. For the most part, the stories are engaging, either humorous or emotional or both, though a few seem too obtuse or "literary" to have really moved me... except the last story in the volume, which happens to be the eponymous "The First Person." It's perfect. It's everything a short story should be. I loved it, and it reminded me why I loved Ali Smith in the first place. Pure beauty. Even i ...more
May 09, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I wasn't really interested in most of the stories in this collection, but then I've never read a short story collection in which every story was equally intriguing. I felt they went over my head.

The title itself is self-consciously literary, since highly literate writerly types find themselves thinking in terms of first, second and third person. The first story in the collection includes a wonderful collection of quotations about short stories; a sure sign that this is a book designed to appeal
Richard Butchins
Ok, so writing short stories about writing short stories is clever? No, it's not. It's arch and self indulgent. Smith is far better when she writes a story, some of which are rather good. Overall there's that "I'm a really clever Oxbridge graduate, look what I can do" feel about this work. Now a good writer has no need to do this, it's a peculiar and very British snobbery about writing, this preoccupation with credentials. All in all the writing is self celebratory, simplistic, at times tiresome ...more
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Ali Smith is so original and fresh a writer,that
I am going to read her book The Accidental. One
amazing story, the child, is about a woman's discovery
of a child in her supermarket trolley. The child turns
out to be the id or the devil. ANother amazing story
writ finds the author meeting her fourteen year old self.
She is a unique writer.
John Newcomb
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Always a pleasure. My favourite stories were the one where the narrator finds an evil baby in her shopping trolley and the one where the narrator finds herself facing her 14 year old self. But the joy and humour and love and humanity runs through all of the stories. I really need to read her new collection. You are never board with Ali.
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Merkelige, absurde noveller. Jeg likte det.
Oct 09, 2010 marked it as sampled-a-few  ·  review of another edition
"Franz Kafka says that the short story is a cage in search of a bird."
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good writing is good writing and these short stories are examples of the jewels we want when we read a short story. I enjoyed her Hotel World and now this.

Hotel World was more a novel made of short stories. This one had quite varied and very different people/situations. The kind of book I'll pick up again and just jump into a story.

I saved this:
"You hold me very tight in under my clothes, and if there's a library anywhere near then someone just removed its roof, the shelves just flooded with su
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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 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.”
“All short stories long.” 5 likes
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