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on 16 February 2014
It starts with a ghost story, a story that weaves its way around four linked lectures. Smith is playing with form and function here and at the beginning I couldn’t understand the switching from the narrator telling us their story and then switching to the lectures on time, on form, on edge and on offer and on reflection but there was a point where I stopped being annoyed by the lecturing tone and relaxed into taking on board what was being said, even if the messages were being mixed together.

You see the narrator is reading you the unfinished lectures from her partner and ghostly visitor, which makes it quite moving the more you read.

I was left thinking that people haunt themselves with the idea of the dead but if the dead actually did haunt them they’d react and cope completely differently – a lesson our narrator leans quite harshly in the end.
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on 18 July 2017
Despite the novel being about academics I found the lecturing voice irritating- the desire to dispay ALL the research and scholarship (particularly the inclusion of translators of quoted passages, no matter how overlooked they normally are a novelis not the place to redress this.). There were some interesting facts , though most of the information was common knowledge - the whole novel seemed false and patronising.. I shan't hurry to read any of her other acclaimed novels.
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on 29 January 2013
Artful is based on four lectures Ali Smith gave at Oxford University. The lectures were done in a unique format as if someone had discovered essays on art and fiction written by former lover who haunts you. I really loved Ali Smith's short stories, especially "True Short Story" where there is a lot of material on the nature of the short story. When I saw these essays as forthcoming on Amazon I knew I really wanted to read them. There is much that is marvelous in these wonderful essays. Smith loves the short story and there is a lot to learn about the form in this book, along with much more.

Last year as I read articles on the short story by William Trevor and Elizabeth Bowen who both said the short story was the newest literary form. I thought who am I to contradict them but every fiber I had
screamed "totally wrong, they are the oldest form". I was so happy to see Smith agree with this and talking about ancient works such as The Epic of Gilgamesh as pieced together short stories and even talking about cave paintings as being inspired by short stories. I felt a shiver when she talked of countless literatures of the past lost to us. I

Smith talks about why we need art and the limitations and reach of short stories. She organizes her lectures around four themes, "On Time", "On Form", "On Edge", and "On Offer and Reflection". I do not think there is an "Ali Smith doctrine" in these lectures, she is artist and a lover of the short story, not really a formal theoretician or academic (thankfully!) The greatness of these lectures, and they are marvels, is in the many wonderful things she says that make you ponder if you agree or not. There are lots of really interesting reading ideas here also. She talks about a lot of things here you I really enjoyed reading such as Charlie Chaplain films, Nate King Cole, and she spends a lot of time talking about Oliver Twist. My mind was opened up to a new way of looking at the book by what she says about the Artful Dodger and Fagin.

She talks about the greats of literature: Ovid, Rilke, Flaubert and Shakespeare. I was so happy to see she loved Katherine Mansfield. She made me think of Mansfield as a writer on the margins and I reflected that Smith is probably right when she said Mansfield is still on the margins of the literary canon of modernism.

The entire essay contains simply wonderful utterances any one who loves reading or books (not the same thing) will relish reading and at times feel Smith is articulating what they feel but cannot express.

There is enough in this line for a dozen huge books: "Walter Benjamin says that's where the storyteller's authority comes from, death." I have begun to do word counts on some of the works you read and so far if you scan a 400 page collection of short stories and a 400 page novel for terms like "death" and "love" they come up more more often in the short stories.

Artful by Ali Smith is a challenging book, both in understanding what she is saying and it trying to incorporate her knowledge within your own. This not an academic presentation of facts to help you pass your orals. It is a wonderful work of art, almost a new art form. There just is so much to like and learn from in these essays. I think one could read them many times with pleasure and profit.

It is also a deeply felt love story.
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on 5 March 2017
I can't guage how much of the text here was actually delivered at St Ann's (the college, be it remembered, where Iris Murdoch had been a Fellow), but however revised it may have been since, the listeners were extremely lucky. It's more than time the University of the Highlands and Islands paid the author (an Invernessian) due and belated homage, even if she has more than mixed feelings about the burgh it squats in. No-one could read this book without being grateful for the experience.
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on 30 January 2013
The more I read interesting and different forms of the novel, the more I am convinced that the book cannot die. It shouldn't and it will not. Reading will never go out of style, and Ali Smith is one of those authors that keep proving this time and again. I started reading her when I was about twenty four or so and haven't stopped since then. All her books are quirky and have this mischief sense about them. This is what attracts me most to her books and her writing. If a writer can make me want to read his or her books without stopping, then that writer has done me in.

"Artful" is unlike anything which Smith has written before. It is based on four lectures given by Ali Smith at Oxford University. "Artful" is all about books and the love of reading and what reading can do to readers. The essays are on four themes: Time, Edge, Offer and Reflection. The lectures were then delivered in the format - as if someone had discovered essays on art and fiction written by a former lover who haunts you. So partly, the book seems to read like a novel and at times like a work of non-fiction, which is a very unique way to write or compile a book.

The narrative and form of the book will instantly get to the reader, such is its power. I had to read the book in parts - could not finish it in one sitting because come to think of it, because of the structure, it is a difficult read in parts. One has to get used to the way it is written and only then can the reader be at ease. What attracted me the most to this book was that it was about art and more so about the love of books and fiction.

"Artful" while is a challenging book; it also lets you explore your imagination and ideas. It sort of blends your ideas with the books' thoughts and that is something which I haven't come across in many books. At the same time, it is quite a challenging book to read, if as a reader you are up to the challenge. Smith's literary references are all over the place and it takes a reader some time to make sense of it, however once that happens, it is breezy read. I would recommend it to you, only if you are interested in books and fiction and art being talked about in another book.
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on 8 September 2016
"Here’s to the place where reality and the imagination meet, whose exchange, whose dialogue, allows us not just to imagine an unreal different world but also a real different world – to match reality with possibili…" (Smith, Artful, 197)

Ali Smith is one of my all time literary heroes, so it’s kind of difficult for me to be objective about her writing. I understand some of the criticisms that have been levelled at Artful – that it’s too selfconsciously, well, artful, with its puns and its wordplay and its dizzying array of references to high art and low, to cinema, painting, TV, novels, poetry, songs and anecdotes. But, to be honest, that’s what I really want in essays or lectures. I don’t want some dry as dust expostion on the role of aesthetic form. It’s precisely the kind of grasshopper style that drew me to this book in the first place: the ability to cruise from Oliver Twist to Oliver! or from Miłosz to Rilke via Sappho. These associative leaps open up genuine dialogue, not just between the reader and author, but between the texts themselves.

But it’s not just those bold associations that Smith conjures, her linguistic pyrotechnics or the intellectual fizz of Artful which makes it such a wonderful collection of studies. It’s also the way that, at the same time, the author plays with the genre itself, inserting her essays within a narrative framework. Smith fictionalises herself, as the now dead author of a series of lectures which are read by her grieving lover. This is, I believe, one of the most beautiful examples of literature as love letter since Woolf’s Orlando, a gift of startling generosity since, as the narrator later realises, “To be known so well by someone is an unimaginable gift. But to be imagined so well by someone is even better.” (188)

This is what is so characteristic of Smiths’ writing. “Art,” she writes, “is always an exchange, like love, whose giving and taking can be a complex and wounding matter” (166). It is this perception of writing as an act of exchange, as a circuit between reader, writer and text, “the place where reality and imagination meet,” which forms the bedrock of her literary project. Because, beneath the wit and wisdom of her prose lies compassion and warmth, an empathy which, she explains, is ‘art’s part-exchange…its inclusivity, at once a kindness, a going beyond the self.’ (178)
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on 29 April 2014
This is not really a novel, although there is arguably a vague storyline. It is rather a collection of 'talks' delivered by the author, which pursue familar concepts in a variety of new and extended directions. I would describe it more as a philosophical exploration of literary and artistic ideas, which are supported by a wealth of examples. This is a very erudite compilation, with a vast number of literary and artistic references, and probably is best read slowly and very thoughtfully. There is much to be learned about our language and the way we use it to be found here. The title itself opens the door to many levels of meaning. An interesting and often stimulating read, but it is the "journey" that matters here, not any "destination".
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on 16 December 2013
Like opening a window into my head, Artful is playful and cleverly constructed, beautifully told.
Want to read again immediately but need to let it settle
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on 21 February 2015
The fact that this book is a series of lectures about art adapted so as to form a narrative might lead you to believe it could be a bit dry. However, it is completely engaging. Ali Smith wears her intelligence and learning so lightly that it is a joy to read.
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on 28 January 2013
I cannot believe this book only has one review - how could something so sublime evoke so little reaction? Artful is like having your mind kissed by a genius - repeatedly. It will draw you into a story of lost-love whilst simultaneously taking you on a voyage of joy and inspiration. You will google incessantly - Artful leads you to the most delightful places, you will dance past artists, authors and poets as diverse as Kusama, WG Sebald and George Mackay Brown. But in many ways, the less expectations you have the better; come to this book with an open mind and be truly amazed.

I loved this book so much I grieved for it when it was finished. I wish I could spend every day with such a knowledgeable companion. Artful is blissful.
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