“But the fact is, how do you know anything is true? Duh, obviously, records and so on, but how do you know that the records are true? Things are not just true because the internet says they are. Really the phrase should be, not the fact is, but the fact seems to be.”
It is incredibly difficult to write about Ali Smith’s books. I mean where do you start? Plots are not what they seem. Plots are merely vehicles to convey sub-plots, ideas, sentiments, and impressions of the world around us.
So writing about how There But For The tells about the story of a man who is invited to a dinner party, gets up, and locks himself into a room in his host’s house for months is an inadequate description.
Even going on to say that the book also tells the stories of the people around the mysterious hermit guest will not do. Instead, I am going to say that There But For The is a story about underdogs with at least three main characters – my favourite of which is Brooke.
Brooke is a highly intelligent, sensitive child who is bullied by a teacher. She starts to withdraw from her peers and her family and find solace in learning about history.
“So people in authority should be more careful because having your head on a coin doesn’t mean you are immune to history like people are immune to things they have been inoculated against by a doctor. Just because someone is in authority, for example in charge of you, and can get you by the arm when no one will know so that your arm afterwards really hurts, and shout in your ear, so loud so that it feels like a slap and your ear can feel the words in it for quite some time after, it doesn’t mean history won’t happen back to them.”
But Brooke is not set on revenge. She is compassionate, inquisitive, and caring – traits she shares with the other heroes in Smith’s story.
“What I am feeling is irrelevant, Brooke said, but if you are feeling for all those people, that is an astronomical amount of feeling.
It is an Alps of feeling, her mother said, and what you are feeling is never irrelevant, and I feel an Alps of feeling about that too.”
And, yet, even with all those layers of characters and story lines and observing the subtleties of life yet, there is always more to an Ali Smith story than the story it self.
There is always the writing. I love Smith’s ability to use words, to play with sounds and meanings and, best of all, to conjure up images which correspond with my sense of quirky humor.
“Now the Queen is sitting in front of a screen. There are a lot of courtiers asking her things and she is ignoring them because she is in the middle of playing Call Of Duty.”
4* (out of 5*)