What unites Katherine Mansfield, Charlie Chaplin, Shakespeare, Rilke, Beethoven, Brexit, the present, the past, the north, the south, the east, the west, a man mourning lost times, a woman trapped in modern times?
Spring. The great connective.
With an eye to the migrancy of story over time and riffing on Pericles, one of Shakespeare's most resistant and rollicking works, Ali Smith tell the impossible tale of an impossible time. In a time of walls and lockdown, Smith opens the door.
The time we're living in is changing nature. Will it change the nature of story?
Hope springs eternal.
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Testament, indictment, plea? It's amazing how a British author writing about European refugee camps depicts the situation in America's detention centers described today. It's either a plot of the left or right or a description of human nature. The book opens with horrid Twitter ranting, an irrepressible muddy stream of consciousness description of media influence in the modern world; once you get past that, if you can, there's the story of Richard, a filmmaker who's grieving the loss of a friend, a muse; he's also grieving his youth and lost chances. There's Brit, who works in that place, that "detention center", a person just trying to get by. There's the story of how their stories intersect, an adventure. There's a mysterious young girl who seems to achieve miracles by speaking truth to power. There's mystery, hope, despair, resolution. There's a lot of buttons pushed in your internal psyche, as the author intends. Smith forces you to deal with the fact that the conditions that created World War II are even more active in the current world. And the unavoidable realization that if you look at history with open eyes and heart, the majority of us are the descendants of victims, persecutors, survivors, and collaborators. What choices will we make in our lives, whose descendants will judge us? Who are we, in our choices, in our souls? Just ordinary people, trying to get by.
(*I received an advance copy from Norton for review; much gratitude and consternation followed, as you've just read.)