Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Autumn by Ali Smith

AutumnAutumn by Ali Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars  View all my reviews
Read Autumn the way you would a collage painting: What’s the big picture? What’s in the details? How does the story all hang together, and what do we imagine happens next? Autumn is a painting made up of words, as Daniel shows Elisabeth when he asks her to close her eyes and imagine as he describes a collage by Pauline Boty. Elisabeth is able to recognize the painting when she actually sees it.

Sixties icons play a central role in the novel: Pauline Boty, as well as Christine Keeler (who was the subject of one of Boty’s paintings), serve as totems for us to examine our present time. In an article by Ali Smith herself, she describes the work of Pauline Boty as dropping “us head-first into a dream, and when the dream turns into a nightmare she slaps it in the face, wakes up into what’s now a multilayered narrative of dreamworld and mundanity” [1]. Quite often in the book, when things seem to be quite grim for Elisabeth (and the world), Daniel shows how art can lift you out of the darkness.

Ali Smith, writer, signing books at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. By Tim Duncan. From Wikimedia Commons.

Christine Keeler’s role seems to guide us to the question, “What happens culturally when something is built on a lie?” [2]. The fallout from Brexit is definitely in the book, from the comically absurd task of applying for a passport, the fences around common land, and the spray painting of “GO HOME” on people’s houses. Ali Smith uses fiction and painting to remind us “to read the world as a construct. And if you can read the world as a construct, you can ask questions of the construct and you can suggest ways to change the construct. You understand that things aren’t fixed” [2].

Initially, I thought about giving the book a four star rating because of its lack of resolution. But you have to stare at the novel, dissect it, make connections,  and do research. By God, did Smith do a lot of research - which is not immediately apparent, especially considering the speed with which this book was written and published: “Maybe an accelerated news cycle requires accelerated art” [2].

We live in the era that comes after Rule Britannia (political empire) and Cool Britannia (the resurgence of the cultural empire). Does Europe and the rest of the world ask what happens Post-Britannia? What has the empire stood for, for us? Smith looks to the art of Pauline Boty and her final testament: A “message of undying hope, of solidarity with the oppressed, and of certainty about the future that gave all us us more than courage. Determination” [1].

Works considered while writing this wee review:
[1] Ali Smith on the prime of pop artist Pauline Boty

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Enter the Darkness

As we head into darker days and longer nights, we celebrate what scares us. Perhaps, in our fear, we will cling to each other to keep safe until the daylight comes. Or perhaps the darkness will follow us - as Del Toro wishes - home.

Here are three of my favourite spooky things from this year:
  1. "Time Warp Saloon" from Epidsode 2 Lost in Time
  2. The Ghost Box from Hingston & Olsen
  3. The AGO's Guillermo Del Toro Exhibit: At Home with Monsters

Saturday, 21 January 2017

His Bloody Project

His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick MacraeHis Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coincidentally, after I finished this book, I listened to a CBC program about Indigenous issues in Canada. Both the book and the interview shared the following aspects:

-19th century racial theories;
-Colonial control over native peoples (in the book's case, the English over the Highlanders);
-and the power struggle between people who are kept under the heel of others.

The powerlessness of Roderick Macrae is what has stuck with me. As Bob Rae said in the interview: "People need the power to control their own lives" or else tragedy follows.

So despite my lack of an "a-ha moment" while reading the novel, I found I gained insight upon digestion.

FYI link to the Interview:

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The Storm

The StormThe Storm by Neil Broadfoot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fast-paced and sometimes gory crime story set in Edinburgh, Scotland - with a visit to the Isle of Skye. Part of the fun of this book is to see notable places mentioned and to hear a Scottish voice telling the tale. I thoroughly enjoyed being back in Scotland again.

The murder investigation is told from two points of view: one, a scalawag journalist; and two, a bright, ambitious police officer who doesn't fit into the mold. Even though Doug and Susie are kept apart in this book, their relationship is revealed and further complicated by the introduction of Rebecca to the series. To make matters worse in this triangle, Susie and Rebecca are friends. How could you, Doug?

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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Worlds of Ink and Shadow

Worlds of Ink and ShadowWorlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed reading this book: It made me believe that many fictional characters are living real lives in alternate realities. Great way to understand the inspirations for the novels of the Bronte sisters. Worlds of Ink and Shadow is a YA book, but as an adult reader, I am frustrated that some of the darker aspects of the Brontes (repressed sexuality, ambition, and rivalry) isn't explored more fully. Hmmm, guess I should pick up a copy of Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre.

4.5 stars - keep thinking about this book

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