Author Spotlight #2 - Ali Smith

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Ali SmithThe name Ali Smith crossed my path twice this morning, so I thought why not feature this Scottish author in our second 'Author Spotlight'? She is a contemporary author of some standing after all, one the UK Guardian has recently termed "a national treasure".

Public LibraryHer just published collection of stories 'Public library and other stories' sees her as a champion of, and campaigner for, public libraries in the UK, where libraries have come under severe pressure and suffered huge cutbacks due to local government financial cutbacks. The twelve short stories contained within consist of statements about the importance of public libraries by Ali Smith's friends and acquaintances, comments and reminiscences by novelists amongst others, and a poem to boot. As this Guardian review says, "Smith's greatest talent is her ability to produce on the page the effect of a human voice, so that with her books we have the strong sense of reading what Henry James called a "human attestation"."

How to be bothAli Smith, born in Inverness, Scotland, in 1962, is probably best known for her book 'How to Be Both' (2014), which as recent as last June was announced as the winner of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. In recent days too this title appeared on the longlist for the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award. But the book's list of accolades does not stop there - it was the winner of the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize, and of the Novel Award in the 2014 Costa Book Awards. It was also shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and the 2015 (short-lived?) Folio Prize. Now that is what I call recognition!

The novel, in two parts, examines the lives of Italian renaissance painter Francesco del Cossa and a 1960s English teenager mourning her mother's sudden death and fascinated by the artist's work. An interesting aspect of the book is that the two parts can be read in any order.

'How to Be Both', Book Summary - "This is a novel all about art's versatility. Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make a literary double-take, it's 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."

Hotel WorldHer second novel 'Hotel World' (2001) was shortlisted for the 2001 Man Booker Prize and the 2001 Orange Prize (now the Bailey's Prize), while her next, 'The Accidental' (2005), won the 2005 Whitbread Novel Award (now the Costa Novel Award) and was shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize the same year.

Her first novel,' Like', was published in 1997.

Her non-fiction includes 'Artful', a book of essays, which won the 2013 Bristol Festival of Ideas/Best Book of Ideas.

Aside from the just published 'Public library and other stories', she is the author of four further collections of short stories, including 'Free Love' (1995), for which she won the Saltire First Book Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award. 

Spotlight by: Eddie Byrne


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