The Book Lover
by: Ali Smith
Published by: Anchor Books
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Reviewed by Julie Failla Earhart
It’s always fun to learn what authors influence other authors–what’s on their bookshelves that, perhaps, influenced them to become writers. Ali Smith has put together such a collection in The Book Lover.
I have to admit that I have not read any of Smith’s three novels and three short story collections, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to know what is on her shelf. I expected to find many of the writers from literature’s canon. I was pleasantly surprised to find a few of these writers: Zorna Neal Hurston, John Keats, Virginia Wolff, Shakespeare, and a small number of others. I was more surprised to find writers whom I had yet to be introduced–writers like Djuan Barnes, Edwin Morgan, Lavinia Greenlaw, Hugh MacDiarmid, Lorna Sage, and Helen Oyeyemi. It was nice to read authors that have yet to cross my radar.
Divided into six sections, the writings cover a wide variety of styles from poetry to essays to short stories to excerpts from longer works. The Book Lover is not meant to be read in one sitting, but enjoyed when the reader has a moment to spare and can read four to six pages, many times less, of a quality work.
The Book Lover does have its drawbacks. One is that I kept having to flip to the rear section “About the Writers” to learn more about my new friends. Many times the authors had more than one work and I was never sure from which work the entry was taken.
Another disadvantage was when a work was excerpted, I had no idea of what the larger piece was. Except for the Zorna Neal Hurston piece. It’s been a long time since I’ve read Their Eyes Were Watching God. I couldn’t remember if that was the beginning of the novel or the beginning of a chapter. Without some kinds of context, the reader is lost. So, mostly I skipped the selections, and picked and chose what parts of The Book Lover I read.
Armchair Interviews says: An interesting idea with some confusing parts for the reader.
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