Tuesday, 1 March 2016

What I Loved: 'Artful' by Ali Smith

Monday night
It's been so long since I've sat up late, unable, or unwilling, to put down a book, but tonight I'm firmly in 'Artful' by Ali Smith.
I've got my reading lamp clipped to the back centimetre of pages - it's the one I bought in Readings, Malvern, after the manager and I inspected and compared the two brands they had available. We were two amateurs reading attributes on the back of boxes - they could have been 14 letter ingredients for drugs for all we knew - and I don't know why the decision took so long when they were both the same price ($19.95) but it was quiet in the shop and eventually I chose one brand over the other. And I chose pink - pink! and now, in the thoughts, quotes and fantasy of Ali Smith not only am I a Reader again, but while my lover, who wakes for work at 5.15am, snores lightly beside me - a sound I find comforting because I know how much he needs rest to get through the hours he spends on his feet - I'm slipping in and out of our bed, my LED light flicking shapes across the shoes and shorts that he's left on the floor. I'm a thief on her first mission, a nervous accomplice. I dropped a pencil on my desk and it rolled into a handbag, colliding with something hard - who knew a pencil could clash so loudly? My frustration at dropping a sharpened pencil in the dark, at having to take a break from 'Artful' because it seems that not only am I alert and keen for Smith's words, it seems that also for the first time in a long time I feel the urgent need to write. But my words these days are never my stories. They're ways to share others' writing, to promote the skills of others and yet there, there are the side page notes, those jots that make little sense until you pick through many filled notebooks and somehow find lines that can be related to each other and form the basis of a paragraph or an idea to explore. So there's some hope for me, Writer.
But for now it's 10.13pm on a Monday. It's time to put away this notebook and the blunt, second choice pencil and go to sleep. I've finished 'On time' and in the morning, if I'm awake early enough and have the time, I might bring a cup of coffee to bed and read the next section, 'On form,' before the day of writing for others begins.

Tuesday morning
After handwriting that note I kept reading. I finished 'On form' at 10.47pm and I liked turning off my pink light at that point because my alarm goes off at 6.27am and somehow after reading 92 pages in one sitting the idea of exactly 7.5 hours sleep seemed sound. Of course that required starting my slumber at that very minute.
I should have known that because I'd started reading something that is "part fiction, part essay" and "a revelation of what writing can do," there was no chance of falling asleep quickly. Or, as I felt at 2.07am, if at all.
At which point I tried listening to a podcast to put me to sleep, but Kevin Barry talking with Debra Treisman and reading 'The Saucer of Larks' by Brian Friel in noise cancellation headphones was a poor choice. Both the conversation and the story are entertaining - Irish accents and insight, the Atlantic coast of Ireland - and saw me through until 2.58am.
At some point I fell asleep, then woke with our first alarm at 5.15am and went back to sleep. I woke again at 7.33am (I had reset my own alarm) and made coffee. I kept the blinds closed, pretending I wasn't skiving when I should be working, and went back to bed with Ali Smith. I read the next section, 'On edge,' and have forced myself to put it down and get to my desk. But only so far as to think and write about the work by this author who is, as said by Alain de Botton
"a genius, genuinely modern in the heroic, glorious sense."
The final section is 'On offer and on reflection.' I can't wait to go to bed tonight.

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