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The Accidentalby Ali Smith
Synopses & Reviews
of things — when is it exactly?
Astrid Smart wants to know. (Astrid Smart. Astrid Berenski. Astrid Smart. Astrid Berenski.) 5.04 a.m. on the substandard clock radio. Because why do people always say the day starts now? Really it starts in the middle of the night at a fraction of a second past midnight. But it's not supposed to have begun until the dawn, really the dark is still last night and it isn't morning till the light, though actually it was morning as soon as it was even a fraction of a second past twelve i.e. that experiment where you divide something down and down like the distance between the ground and a ball that's been bounced on it so that it can be proved, Magnus says, that the ball never actually touches the ground. Which is junk because of course it touches the ground, otherwise how would it bounce, it wouldn't have anything to bounce off, but it can actually be proved by science that it doesn't.
Astrid is taping dawns. There is nothing else to do here. The village is a dump. Post office, vandalized Indian restaurant, chip shop, little shop place that's never open, place for ducks to cross the road. Ducks actually have their own roadsign There is a sofa warehouse called Sofa So Good. It is dismal. There is a church. The church has its own roadsign too. Nothing happens here except a church and some ducks, and this house is an ultimate dump. It is substandard. Nothing is going to happen here all substandard summer.
She now has nine dawns one after the other on the mini dv tape in her Sony digital. Thursday 10 July 2003, Friday II July 2003, Saturday 12, Sunday 13, Monday 14, Tuesday 15, Wednesday 16, Thursday 17 and today Friday 18. But it is hard to know what moment exactly dawn is. All there is when you look at it on the camera screen is the view of outside getting more visible. So does this mean that the beginning is something to do with being able to see? That the day begins as soon as you wake up and open your eyes? So when Magnus finally wakes up in the afternoon and they can hear him moving about in the room that's his in this dump of a substandard house, does that mean the day is still beginning? Is the beginning different for everyone? Or do beginnings just keep stretching on forwards and forwards all day? Or maybe it is back and back they stretch. Because every time you open your eyes there was a time before that when you closed them then a different time before that when you opened them, all the way back, through all the sleeping and the waking and the ordinary things like blinking, to the first time you ever open your eyes, which is probably round about the moment you are born.
Astrid kicks her trainers off on to the floor. She slides back across the horrible bed. Or possibly the beginning is even further back than that, when you are in the womb or whatever it's called. Possibly the real beginning is when you are just forming into a person and for the first time the soft stuff that makes your eyes is actually made, formed, inside the hard stuff that becomes your head i.e. your skull.
She fingers the curve of bone above her left eye. Eyes fit the space they are in, exactly like they were made for each other, the space and the eye. Like the play she saw with the man in it whose eyes were gouged out, the people on the stage turned him so the audience couldn't see, then they gouged out his eyes then whirled the chair round and he had hi
"The Accidental" is the dizzyingly entertaining, wickedly humorous story of a mysterious stranger whose sudden appearance during a family's summer holiday transforms four variouslyunhappy people. Each of the Smarts-parents Eve and Michael, son Magnus, and the youngest, daughter Astrid-encounter Amber in his or her own solipsistic way, but somehow her presence allows them to setheir lives (and their life together) in a new light. Smith's exhilarating facility with language, her narrative freedom, and her chromatic wordplay propel the novel to its startling, wonderfully enigmaticconclusion.Ali Smith's acclaimed novel won the prestigious Whitbread Award and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the James Tait Black MemorialPrize.
"From the Trade Paperback edition."
from the United Kingdom:
An outstanding novel . . . Exuberantly inventive . . . Beautifully formed and astringently intelligent . . . It is as good as anyone who has been watching the progress of this talented author could possibly have hoped.
-The Sunday Times
Funny, sexy, poignant, surprising, playful . . . Although the novel dazzles with the richness of language and ideas, it retains a delicious lightness.
Spectacular . . . Allusive, ambitious and formally acrobatic . . . Original, restless, formally and morally challenging, Ali Smith] remains a writer who resists definition.
-The Times Literary Supplement
Amazing . . . Dazzling . . . Smith is one of our greatest imaginative writers.
Joyous . . . Smith plays dizzying games with her story and language; she bends and buckles her prose, breathes fire into it, lets it cool, swirls it up in unimaginable shapes. This is writing as pure rapture, as giddy delight.
From the Hardcover edition.
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