MAN BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST • A novel all about art's versatility, borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take.
"Cements Smith’s reputation as one of the finest and most innovative of our contemporary writers. By some divine alchemy, she is both funny and moving; she combines intellectual rigor with whimsy" —The Los Angeles Review of Books
How to be both is a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a Renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real—and all life’s givens get given a second chance. Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith’s novels are like nothing else.
A NOTE TO THE READER:
Who says stories reach everybody in the same order?
This novel can be read in two ways, and the eBook provides you with both. You can choose which way to read the novel by simply clicking on one of two icons—CAMERA or EYES. The text is exactly the same in both versions; the narratives are just in a different order.
The ebook is produced this way so that readers can randomly have different experiences reading the same text. So, depending on which icon you select, the book will read: EYES, CAMERA, or CAMERA, EYES. (Your friend may be reading it the other way around.) Enjoy the adventure.
(Having both versions in the same file is intentional.)
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Reading How to be both is a splendidly dizzying affair, like an amusement park ride that tilts your perspective in exciting and unexpected ways. The inventive, Man Booker–nominated novel presents two separate but mysteriously linked stories: one of a free-spirited Renaissance artist and another about a headstrong British teen reeling from the sudden death of her mother in the ‘60s. Scottish author Ali Smith slyly toys with our expectations, writing with impressionistic beauty and creativity about identity, regret, and the burning desire to break free of limiting expectations.
British author Smith (There but for The), a playful, highly imaginative literary iconoclast, surpasses her previous efforts in this inventive double novel that deals with gender issues, moral questions, the mystery of death, the value of art, the mutability of time, and several other important topics. Two books coexist under the same title, each presenting largely the same material arranged differently and with different emphases; which narrative one reads first depends on chance, as different copies of the book have been printed with different opening chapters. In one version, the androgynous adolescent character George (for Georgia) is mourning the sudden death of her mother following a family trip to Italy, where they viewed a painting by the obscure Renaissance artist Francesco del Cossa. The alternate volume begins with Francesco, recounting stories of the painter's youth and the ongoing creation of a fresco in a palazzo in Ferrara, a process described in vibrant detail. Francesco's secret is disclosed in both sections teasingly in one, overtly in the other. The narratives are captivating, challenging, and often puzzling, as the prose varies among contemporary vernacular English, archaic 15th-century rhetoric interposed with fragments of poetry, and unpunctuated stream-of-consciousness narration. Clever puns and word games abound. George's mother accurately identifies the subtext when she says, "Art makes nothing happen in a way that makes something happen." Smith's two-in-one novel is a provocative reevaluation of the form.