The First Person and Other Stories – Ali Smith

Having loved ‘The Accidental’, in those dark pre-blogging days, and then loving ‘Girl Meets Boy’ (I will admit that I started ‘Hotel World’ and didn’t get into it but I think that was a timing thing) I have been meaning to read much more Ali Smith. I have also been meaning to read more short stories. So what could be more perfect than combining the two and so I started ‘The First Person and Other Stories’, that was about two months ago…

Penguin Books, hardback, 2008, short stories, 224 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

It’s always hard to write down all your thoughts about a collection of short stories is that you want to start writing what you would for a book for each story. So I will instead try and share with you what is the essence of ‘The First Person and Other Stories’ and also what makes them all different and interesting to read, so do bear with me as I try and accomplish this. I will start by saying that this collection of Ali Smith’s has some of the most wonderful short stories in it and every single tale could actually be a set of snap shots into a selection of real people’s lives, only of course we know they are fiction but sometimes its hard to differentiate.

You have many stories about love and lovers, in fact that’s possibly the main running theme in this collection along with Smith’s clear fascination with the English language both used to extremes in the delightful ‘The Third Person’ which starts with the line ‘all short stories long’ its almost too complex to explain (not helpful that) because in thirteen pages she can do so much. ‘No Exit’ is a tale of two ex lovers who start chatting after one of them see’s a woman go down a blocked exit in a cinema leading to a steamy flashback which leads to a phone call in the small hours reminiscing. ‘Astute Fiery Luxurious’ and ‘The First Person’ both look at the loves that have gone before the one you are with right now, the later in a most touching way that you don’t expect.

My favourites of the collection however didn’t really look at love, though the first you could say was the love of true friendship and of stories. The opening tale is the wonderful and touching ‘True Short Story’ which was a tale of short stories, friendship and cancer and move. The other was a tale of a woman, who doesn’t want children, finding one in her trolley whilst at the supermarket who starts to call her ‘Mummy’ and the madness that ensues, especially when the child starts to act rather like an adult and aptly titled ‘The Child’.

I would have placed those first two stories at the end of the collection because they stood out so much the ones that followed until the last and aforementioned ‘The First Person’ seemed to suffer from the first twos brilliance. It could be that I spread out the reading over slightly too long a period after deciding to read a story now and then, mind you the first two really stayed with me and I am still thinking of the last one. A really interesting and quite compelling collection, there were the occasional few loose canons here and there where I couldn’t quite work out what had happened but I have to say Ali Smith is an author you can happily lose yourself in… even if you can’t work out exactly what’s going on or where for the whole time.

Have any of you tried this or any of Ali Smith’s other short story collections as I have some more of them in the TBR pile and am not sure where to go next!? Or should I go for another of her novels and re-try ‘Hotel World’?


Filed under Ali Smith, Penguin Books, Review, Short Stories

7 responses to “The First Person and Other Stories – Ali Smith

  1. I am a relative novice at short stories. I’ve read a handful of collections but none by this author. Still, this one sounds like it delivered, so why not try some more?

    BTW, I just received Solar – perfect timing as my Literacy event is TONIGHT! They were so excited to feature this book. I cannot wait to see how it sells!

  2. Other Stories and other stories is her only collection I’ve read. Hope you give Hotel World another chance. I did like it, but not as much as The Accidental.

  3. Hotel World is on my wish list. I will keep an eye on this one too. Thanks for your review!

  4. Laura

    Ive read a lot of Ali Smith and loved every story.
    I was just wondering if you could help me, I have a quote stuck in my head and I’m pretty sure it’s from an Ali Smith story. The quote involves two lovers entwined in bed, one asks the other if what she can see is her arm or her lovers and the liver replies something like “it’s yours, it’s attached to me but it’s yours”.

    Do you recognise it?


    • Hi Laura, I think thats one of the latter of the short stories in this collection, in fact isnt this the title story from the collection? I haven’t my copy at present (I leant it to a friend) so can’t check but I think its that one.

  5. Pingback: There But For The – Ali Smith | Savidge Reads

  6. Pingback: How to be both – Ali Smith | Savidge Reads

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