‘Artful’ By Ali Smith

9780143124498While enviously browsing  the art theory section of the bookstore in the National Gallery of Art, I saw this book and was immediately intrigued by it.

Artful is not exactly non fiction, not exactly a novel, and not exactly a collection of essays, but is something of all three.

Smith’s husband, apparently a university lecturer on literature, has recently died and the book is structured around his notes for four undelivered lectures. She digresses, extensively quoting from poetry and sometimes assembling ‘new’ poetry from lines from poets like Wallace Stevens, T.S. Eliot, and others to create a ‘new’ poem. She is even, briefly, haunted by visions or hallucinations of her late husband visiting her and stealing things (though she also recognizes that it must be she who is actually the thief, because her husband is not there.

It’s a beautiful book, but my expectations were too high, I fear. Nonethless, it is beautiful and a moving, highly literate elegy.

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