I first read Ali Smith when I was in University. On a Waterstones wander I picked up the newly published There but for the. I read it in almost one sitting and was completely entranced by writing so different to anything I’d read before. I’ve since made quite a collection of Ali Smith’s books – there are now nine on my shelves, and yet for some reason I haven’t read most of them. Why? I have no idea.
A few weeks ago I saw Ali Smith speak at Bath Festival, which was a amazing. As a reader and as a writer, I was inspired by everything she said – the passion and enthusiasm she spoke with. It was at that event where I bought a copy of Free Love and Other Stories, which was Smith’s first published book. I started reading on the train home and, as I was with There but for the, I was completely swept away by the beauty of the prose.
I’ve been reading more short story collections this year so far, as when I’m rushing around being busy they slot nicely around things. Reading a fairly short book in a lot of small segments allows for time to absorb and reflect on each story, and gives a feeling of completeness every time. While I’ve been struggling to get fully into a novel while I have to put something down and pick it up again, stories were perfect, and so many of these have been echoing in my head ever since.
My standout favourite was ‘The touching of wood’ – the gentleness of how Smith evokes this relationship, the colours and imagery. What really struck me about the collection as a whole is how skilled Smith is at drawing a huge amount from a seemingly simple story.
What I really felt after finishing this collection was a slight guilt about all of the Ali Smith books on my shelf which I haven’t read yet. So I’m taking this as a nudge to make my way through them soon.