The First Person and Other Stories

Title: The First Person and Other Stories

Writer: Ali Smith

Publishing House: Hamish Hamilton Ltd

Date of Publication: January 2nd 2008

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Williams Carlos Williams says that the short story, which acts like the flare of a match struck in the dark, is the only real form for describing the briefness, the brokenness and the simultaneous wholeness of people’s lives.’’

In twelve stories, one of the finest writers of our times pays a tribute to Love and its various melancholic, aching, tender, ugly faces. People isolate themselves in bitter disappointment while others come together to share a distinctive kind of togetherness in loneliness. An oxymoron? Hardly. After all, Love contains all the antitheses we can think of. Ali Smith shows why the Short Story genre is an art unlike any other.

True Short Story: A tender, quietly humorous story about the very special bond between two friends and a beautiful ode to the nature, the joy and the enchantment of the short story. Those who claim they don’t like short stories would do well to read this gem by Ali Smith…

The Child: A woman finds a child in her trolley. Nobody believes her when she tries to explain that he isn’t hers so she has no choice but to take him with her. And the one-year-old starts throwing every racist joke and insult in perfect English down to the rounded vowels and proper Conservative…attitude. 

‘’Have you seen them, covered in all the frost? the man was saying to the barmaid. Don’t they look just like magic roofs, don’t they look like winter always looked when you were a little child?’’

Present: In a pub what starts as a light discussion about the beauty of winter becomes a confession on childhood, the spirits of Christmas Past, neighbours and families. Real or imaginary conversations? It doesn’t matter. The beauty of this story is like snowflakes lit by the faint reflection of Christmas lights and the frosty silence.

The Third Person: This is a story of summer evenings and love and loss. The rest is open to interpretation…

Fidelio and Bess: A ‘’retelling’’ of the musical Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. I have to admit that I didn’t particularly care for that one…

The History of History: Should we see this story as an example of independence sacrificed on the altar of motherhood or should we feel sorry for the girl who’s practically left motherless because of a whim? And that’s the beauty of the Short Story genre.

No Exit: There is always a strange feeling when you see someone leaving the cinema in the middle of a film. And what about an ‘’Exit’’ that leads nowhere?

The Second Person: Can we really claim that we know the person we have chosen to share – even temporarily – our life with? Can we presume to be able to define them? 

I Know Something You Don’t Know: A boy decides to spend every day in bed, unwilling to eat or even move, and his mother resorts to charlatans because Medicine has disappointed her. And yet, the cure is right there when Nature and its miracles decide to come to the rescue.

Writ: How would we feel if we suddenly started to live with the (very vocal…) presence of our 14-year-old self that is constantly judging us and our society?

Astute Fiery Luxurious: A strange, probably misplaced, delivery brings back memories of teenage years and a troubled schoolmate who enjoyed ‘’killing things’’. A mysterious, multi-layered story.

The First Person: An achingly beautiful, haunting ode to Love. And that’s all that matters…

‘’You have peeled the roof off me and turned the whole library into a wood. Every book is a tree. Above the tops of the trees there’s nothing but birds.

 How am I supposed to survive this, out here in the wild wood?’’