January 24, 2017

IT'S BLURRY


"Mitch thinks that humans will evolve like in Charles Darwin to have a square screen in our foreheads instead of having eyes. We will look at their screens to see everything we need to know. We won’t need to cogitate any more."

Ali Smith - Public Library and Other Stories

For many years I used to set goals of the amount of books that I wanted to read in a year or for each month/week/fortnight in the year. As with most goals I often started out all right, but soon got busy, distracted or lessened the value I felt in actually accomplishing my goal. One year I was so disappointed with the amount of books that I read that year that considering it as a ride-off, I kept a few pages left in the books I read in the final weeks of the year so I could finish them as the calendar rolled over and feel a greater sense of achievement as I started the following year. A tad lame – I know.

The first book that I finished (and also started) this year was called ‘Public Library and Other Stories’ written by Ali Smith. It’s a collection of short stories and also the first book I have read by this author. I find sometimes that short stories can be really absurd. Their shorter format seems to give authors the license to leave more gaps in the narrative where you’re left to wonder how the characters and the concepts in the story really fit together. As an example one of the stories in this collection is about a woman who notices a spot appear on her body and she goes to the doctor for an examination, he runs some tests and refers her to some specialists. As the story continues you realise that a rose bush is growing out of her chest.

My favourite story was ‘Last’.  It starts out with a detailed description of the setting, providing the sort of illustration where you connect the location to something of your own experience and suddenly it becomes you who is living this story through your acquaintance with the main protagonist. You notice a woman in a wheel chair stuck on a train as it goes to the end of the line and you must work out how you might help. It’s a story of an odd shared encounter that brings a few strangers together.

I assume the book gets its title from the collection of anecdotes that the author collected about different people’s memories and experiences with public libraries, these are shared as reflections at the end of each story.

I think I felt too young to read this book, or maybe that’s how I interpreted the way I didn’t always understand the absurd. I liked the way the author made reference to the lives of other authors or spoke their words through the mouths of her characters. But generally I didn’t feel that I related to the characters in a way where my experiences could allow me to access the stories so that my understanding of the world was broadened. But maybe it’s just me.

Here’s a bona fide review of the book if that’s more your thing:
Ali Smith’s Homage to Public Libraries

Picture:
Dave gave me a film camera for my birthday a couple of years ago and I have just been getting back into using it. However I didn't realise that I must have bumped the auto focus button and accidentally shot most of a roll of film with blurry photos including images of Finley and Dave. It was a shame but there's also a lovely quality to the photos, each occasion still captured in their own way.

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