In 2012, Ali Smith delivered the Weidenfeld lectures on European comparative literature at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. Those lectures, presented here, took the shape of discursive stories that refused to be tied down to either fiction or the essay form. Thus, Artful is narrated by a character who is haunted—literally—by a former lover, the writer of a series of lectures about art and literature. A hypnotic dialogue unfolds between storytelling and a meditation on art that encompasses love, grief, memory, and revitalization. Smith’s heady powers as fiction writer harmonize with her keen perceptions as reader and critic to form a living thing that reminds us that art and life are never separate.
Artful is a celebration of and meaningful contribution to literature’s enduring worth in the world. There has never been a book quite like it.
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“One of the marvelous things about this book is its
reconciliation of the serious—both in the form of this crumbling, smelly guest
and in its ardent advocacy of art—and light. Smith, whose love of words and
skill at wordplay has already been made apparent in her stories and novels,
performs dodge after dodge after dodge…What Smith has done with Artful is to invent a new form apart
from form, to build a kind of Frankensteins monster inside the act of art.”
Los Angeles Review of Books