So, this happened today at the Edinburgh Book Fest…..
Ali Smith read from her new – not-even-published-yet – book. She only finished “Autumn” recently and handed it to her publisher on Monday. Monday, people! This was the first EVER reading of it.
I mean, I would have loved anything she would have picked, but this was special. Not only was this the first time she shared her new work with an audience, but the parts we heard were excellent. She’s trying something new with this novel – which will be the first of a cycle of four, all tied to a season. She said she wants them all to be standalone books (so it’s not a series – thank goodness! – I’m not good with series) but they follow a common thread or theme.
But of course, this is Ali Smith. I would have been surprised if her new books was not experimental!
The other aspect that drew me and most of the audience in, was that she picked discussions of a decidedly current nature to feature in the new book: storytelling as the act of welcoming people, Brexit, self-doubt and self-creation or the creation of other selves, the recurring story of plight, refuge, and, well, welcoming. All bound by the discussion of time and people being present in time.
Of course, without having read the new book this is just what I got from today’s reading, but I am super excited. Ali Smith is one of the smartest, kindest, most sensitive and most intelligible writers I have read. She’s also one of the funniest. The fun side, of course came out at today’s reading, too, as the reading and interview was guided by her bestie Jackie Kay. For those not familiar with Jackie Kay, she is the current Makar (Scottish National Poet), and is an awesome writer in her own right. Check her out!
I am also super excited still that there was a book signing after the reading. I must admit I had a bit of a lump in my throat when I got meet Ali, but the weirdest thing happened:
I had taken two books – my hardback first edition of Artful and a copy of Hotel World which I wanted to send to my friend. However, by coincidence – or fate? – my friend’s name is the same as Ali’s new novel, so when I asked if she could make this one out to someone called Autumn, she not only wrote a brilliant dedication but also gave me the cover page of the manuscript she read from earlier, so I can send it off together with my friend’s copy of the book.
No need to add that I have been beside myself since.