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How to Be Both
by Ali Smith


Overview - SHORT-LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE
WINNER OF THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
WINNER OF THE 2014 GOLDSMITHS PRIZE
WINNER OF THE 2014 COSTA NOVEL AWARD
WINNER OF THE SALTIRE LITERARY BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD
A Best Book of the Year: NPR, Financial Times
Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith's novels are like nothing else.
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More About How to Be Both by Ali Smith
 
 
 
Overview
SHORT-LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE
WINNER OF THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
WINNER OF THE 2014 GOLDSMITHS PRIZE
WINNER OF THE 2014 COSTA NOVEL AWARD
WINNER OF THE SALTIRE LITERARY BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD
A Best Book of the Year: NPR, Financial Times
Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith's novels are like nothing else. A true original, she is a one-of-a-kind literary sensation. Her novels consistently attract serious acclaim and discussion--and have won her a dedicated readership who are drawn again and again to the warmth, humanity and humor of her voice.

How to be both is a novel all about art's versatility. Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There's a Renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real--and all life's givens get given a second chance.
A NOTE TO THE READER:
Who says stories reach everybody in the same order?
This novel can be read in two ways and this book provides you with both.
In half of all printed editions of the novel the narrative EYES comes before CAMERA.
In the other half of printed editions the narrative CAMERA precedes EYES.
The narratives are exactly the same in both versions, just in a different order.
The books are intentionally printed in two different ways, so that readers can randomly have different experiences reading the same text. So, depending on which edition you happen to receive, the book will be: EYES, CAMERA, or CAMERA, EYES. Enjoy the adventure.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780375424106
  • ISBN-10: 0375424105
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books
  • Publish Date: December 2014
  • Page Count: 371
  • Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.75 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Historical - General
Books > Fiction > Visionary & Metaphysical

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-10-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

British author Smith (There but for The), a playful, highly imaginative literary iconoclast, surpasses her previous efforts in this inventive double novel that deals with gender issues, moral questions, the mystery of death, the value of art, the mutability of time, and several other important topics. Two books coexist under the same title, each presenting largely the same material arranged differently and with different emphases; which narrative one reads first depends on chance, as different copies of the book have been printed with different opening chapters. In one version, the androgynous adolescent character George (for Georgia) is mourning the sudden death of her mother following a family trip to Italy, where they viewed a painting by the obscure Renaissance artist Francesco del Cossa. The alternate volume begins with Francesco, recounting stories of the painter’s youth and the ongoing creation of a fresco in a palazzo in Ferrara, a process described in vibrant detail. Francesco’s secret is disclosed in both sections—teasingly in one, overtly in the other. The narratives are captivating, challenging, and often puzzling, as the prose varies among contemporary vernacular English, archaic 15th-century rhetoric interposed with fragments of poetry, and unpunctuated stream-of-consciousness narration. Clever puns and word games abound. George’s mother accurately identifies the subtext when she says, “Art makes nothing happen in a way that makes something happen.” Smith’s two-in-one novel is a provocative reevaluation of the form. (Dec.)

 
BookPage Reviews

Two sides, one coin

How to Be Both, by the British writer Ali Smith, tells two interconnected stories. The first is about Georgina, known as George, a 1960s teenager outside of London grieving the death of her mother and taking her first tentative steps toward love. The other is the story of the 15th-century Italian painter Francesco del Cossa, a historical figure responsible for the remarkable frescos in the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara, Italy—and about whom very little else is known.

The twist here—and that word is used purposefully—is that, depending on the copy the reader picks up, either George’s or Francesco’s story could be presented first. Though reading one before the other obviously doesn’t change the outcome, it shows that the stories both precede and follow each other, like fibers in a strand of yarn.

The plot and the structure of How to Be Both play with many ideas and symbols, including androgyny, allegory and memory. Though it may sound intimidating, Smith makes the novel accessible and even fun. George is funny and earthy; a credible, albeit very articulate, teen. Francesco’s story is a picaresque masterpiece complete with brothels and a delicious rivalry. But Smith’s talent shines brightest in her tender depiction of the emotions that, like the underpaintings in a fresco, remain hidden but have a powerful impact.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews