A playful, form-bending novel from the Booker Prize-shortlisted, Women's Prize-winning author of How to be both and the critically acclaimed Seasonal quartet
'Playful and audacious' Independent
Narrated by a character who is haunted - literally - by a former lover, Artful slips slyly between fiction and essay, guiding the reader thrillingly through a sequence of ideas on art and literature. With Smith's trademark humour, inventiveness, poignancy and critical insight, this is unique experiment in form, style, life, love, death, immortality and what art can mean.
Based on four electrifying lectures given by the author at Oxford University, and exploring the explosive connections between art, story, memory and grief - Artful is a tidal wave of ideas to blast away the cobwebs and change how you see the world.
'Artful is a revelation; a new kind of book altogether . . . makes you glad to be alive' Jackie Kay
'Powerful and moving' London Review of Books
'Blending of criticism and fiction, Artful belongs in a genre of its own . . . Joyful for anyone interested in the art of writing, and living, well' Anita Sethi, New Statesman
This contemplative, electrifying, and transformative book comes in four sections, originally delivered as lectures on comparative literature at St. Anne's College, Oxford. Readers, however, won't find themselves on the other side of the lectern. Instead, Smith (There but for the), writing in the first person but not necessarily as Ali Smith, opens with grief: the I-persona has recently lost her longtime love and, still in the throes of despair a year later, turns to the papers and research left on her beloved's desk, ostensibly for a series of talks on literature the substance of which becomes much of Smith's actual lectures. Through riveting reflections on the limitations and the limitlessness of stories, Smith considers four aspects of the endeavor of creation: on "time," "form," "edge," and "offer and reflection." Yet what Smith also provides is the I-persona's own journey, through her anguish, through her responses to her beloved's notes and ideas (which the reader also reads) and through some "real" life (visits with a therapist, some mentions of work, etc.). The results are redemptive for everyone, testifying with singular clarity and wit to the immutable necessity for art.