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There But for The

by

There But for The Cover

ISBN13: 9780375424090
ISBN10: 0375424091
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From the award-winning author of Hotel World and The Accidental, a dazzling, funny, and wonderfully exhilarating new novel.

At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table and locks himself in an upstairs room, communicating only through notes slipped under the door to his involuntary hosts, the Lee family. In an act of desperation, Genevieve Lee summons Anna, a woman Miles knew briefly as a teenager, in the hope that she might be able to lure him out. Anna quickly finds herself thrust into the chaotic and surreal world of the Lees: their precocious nine-year-old neighbor, Brooke; their dinner guest Mark; and May, an elderly woman living nearby. Though each of these characters knows Miles only slightly, his self-imposed isolation will serve as the central event linking them to one another and to their own pasts.

Brilliantly audacious, disarmingly playful, full of Smith’s trademark wit and puns, There But For The is a deft exploration of the human need for separation—from our pasts and from one another—and the redemptive possibilities for connections. It is a tour de force by one of our finest writers.

Review:

"This startling lark from Smith (The Accidental) is so much more than the sum of its parts. Both breezy and devastating, the novel radiates from a whimsical center: Miles Garth, a dinner party guest, decides to leave the world behind and lock himself in his hostess's spare room, refusing to come out and communicating only by note. Four charmers with only tenuous links to Miles, nicknamed Milo by the growing crowd camped outside the suburban Greenwich, London house, narrate the proceedings: Anna, a girl who knew Miles briefly in the past; Mark, a melancholy gay man who Miles met watching Shakespeare at the Old Vic; May Young, an elderly woman who Miles helped grieve her daughter's death; and the wonderful, 'preternaturally articulate' Brooke, arguably the cleverest 10-year-old in contemporary literature. Together they create a portrait not so much of Miles — because none of them really knows him — but of the zeitgeist of their society. In a lovely departure, and in spite of the fact that there is not one ordinary, carefree character in this whole tale, all parents are literate, loving, and tolerant: though Mark is exhausted and sad, his famous mum speaks to him, in verse no less, from beyond the grave; though May is trapped by dementia, she was a kind mother to her ill-fated daughter; and though Brooke is clearly plagued by attention deficit disorder and is misunderstood and disliked at school, her parents love her dearly. This fine, unusual novel is sweet and melancholy, indulgent of language and of the fragile oddballs who so relish in it. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

A dozen sharp new stories by one of contemporary fiction's acknowledged masters

Synopsis:

A. L. Kennedy's riveting new story collection is a luscious feast of language that encompasses real estate and forlorn pets, adolescents and sixty-somethings, weekly liaisons and obsessive affairs, "certain types of threat and the odder edges of sweet things." The women and men in these twelve stories search for love, solace, and a clear glimpse of what their lives have become. Anything can set them off thinking - the sad homogeneity of hotel breakfasts, a sex shop operated under Canadian values (whatever those are), or an army of joggers dressed as Santa.

With her boundless empathy and gift for the perfect phrase, Kennedy makes us care about each of her characters. In "Takes You Home," a man's attempt to sell his flat becomes a journey to the interior, by turns comic and harrowing. And "Late in Life" deftly evokes an intergenerational love affair free of the usual clichés, the younger partner asking the older, "What should I wear at your funeral?"

Alive with memory, humor, and longing, All the Rage is A. L. Kennedy at her inimitable best.

Synopsis:

From the award-winning author of Hotel World and The Accidental, a dazzling, funny, and wonderfully exhilarating new novel.

 

At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. An eclectic group of neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and Miles’s story is told from the points of view of four of them: Anna, a woman in her forties; Mark, a man in his sixties; May, a woman in her eighties; and a ten-year-old named Brooke. The thing is, none of these people knows Miles more than slightly. How much is it possible for us to know about a stranger? And what are the consequences of even the most casual, fleeting moments we share every day with one another?

Brilliantly audacious, disarmingly playful, and full of Smith’s trademark wit and puns, There but for the is a deft exploration of the human need for separation—from our pasts and from one another—and the redemptive possibilities for connection. It is a tour de force by one of our finest writers.

About the Author

Ali Smith is the author of the novels Hotel World — short-listed for both the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize& mdash; and The Accidental, which won the Whitbread Award and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. She is also the author of several short-story collections. She lives in Cambridge, England.

Table of Contents

Late in Life 1

Baby Blue 15

Because Its a Wednesday 35

These Small Pieces 47

The Practice of Mercy 59

Knocked 73

All the Rage 85

Takes You Home 133

The Effects of Good Government on the City 151

Run Catch Run 171

A Thing Unheard-of 187

This Man 199

Acknowledgements 213

What Our Readers Are Saying

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cariola119, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by cariola119)
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

There but for the isn't an easy book for me to write about, because it is one of those rare books that one doesn't just read but actually experiences, participates in. It's not a book to be breezed through for the plot. You have to work at it, often backing up and rereading to make connections between events, characters, and words. But often that work surprises you by becoming infinite play, even as it leaves you with some startling observations about human nature, language, memory, and the world we live in.

Taken separately, each of the words in the title seem nondescript; together, they seem empty without the expected conclusion--without, in other words, God or grace. And maybe that's exactly what Smith intended: to make us ponder the place ("there") of God and the location of grace in a society that is technologically advanced "but" individually isolating. (Think about the person with 5000 'friends' on Facebook.) It may be hard to find, but, ultimately, Smith concludes, grace is still there, within and between us.

The novel consists of four chapters, one for each word in the title, each focused on a different narrator. As many of the reviews below note, the basic premise is that a man attends a dinner party, walks upstairs between the main course and dessert, and locks himself into the spare bedroom, refusing to come out. But the real stories are inside the heads of the narrators. Anna ("There"), a fortyish single woman bored with her job, is surprised to learn that her email address has been found in the interloper's (Miles's) cell phone, pushing forth long-forgotten memories of the continental tour she won as a teenager. Mark ("but"), a gay man in his 60s still grieving the loss of his partner more than 20 years earlier, is haunted by the lyric-singing, rhyme-spouting, often-obscene ghost of his mother, a brilliant artist who committed suicide. May ("for") is a terminally ill 80-year old falling into dementia and memories of the daughter she lost, yet still sharp enough to observe and regret the changing world around her. Finally, the delightful Brooke Bayoude ("the"), who is either the CLEVEREST or the CLEVERIST, a girl who delights in the sounds and multiple meanings of words and wants to pin down the 'facts' of history, even as she comes to realize that facts, too, are mutable. Along the way, Smith deftly and subtly weaves in unexpected connections among these characters and even the novel's secondary characters.

I'm not one who generally likes fiction that philosophizes (see my recent review of Embers, for example.) Here, it takes you unawares, most often playfully, but sometimes melancholically. It's a rare book that can make you think, think about your own life, while you're being so well entertained. And as a wordsmith/word lover, I found Smith's puns, rhymes, jokes, allusions, double entendres, etc. thoroughly delightful. (Having vivid memories of riding in the backseat of the family car at about age nine, pondering the sounds of the word "jello," drawing it out in the voice in my head, I could really relate to Brooke.)

I haven't always been a fan of Smith's type of literary experimentation; in fact, the last of her works that I read, a short story collection, was off-putting simpy because it seemed to exist only for the purpose of experimentation, and while I liked The Accidental--another novel using multiple narrators--, I was somewhat disappointed in the ending. But for me, There but for the is about as close to perfection as it gets. Put aside your usual expections, open your mind, and jump in. You won't regret it
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780375424090
Author:
Smith, Ali
Publisher:
Pantheon Books
Author:
Kennedy, A. L.
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;novel;london;england;literary fiction;greenwich;21st century;literature;british;british literature
Edition Description:
Cloth
Publication Date:
20110931
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 0.78 lb

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Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Literature
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There But for The Used Hardcover
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$8.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Pantheon - English 9780375424090 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This startling lark from Smith (The Accidental) is so much more than the sum of its parts. Both breezy and devastating, the novel radiates from a whimsical center: Miles Garth, a dinner party guest, decides to leave the world behind and lock himself in his hostess's spare room, refusing to come out and communicating only by note. Four charmers with only tenuous links to Miles, nicknamed Milo by the growing crowd camped outside the suburban Greenwich, London house, narrate the proceedings: Anna, a girl who knew Miles briefly in the past; Mark, a melancholy gay man who Miles met watching Shakespeare at the Old Vic; May Young, an elderly woman who Miles helped grieve her daughter's death; and the wonderful, 'preternaturally articulate' Brooke, arguably the cleverest 10-year-old in contemporary literature. Together they create a portrait not so much of Miles — because none of them really knows him — but of the zeitgeist of their society. In a lovely departure, and in spite of the fact that there is not one ordinary, carefree character in this whole tale, all parents are literate, loving, and tolerant: though Mark is exhausted and sad, his famous mum speaks to him, in verse no less, from beyond the grave; though May is trapped by dementia, she was a kind mother to her ill-fated daughter; and though Brooke is clearly plagued by attention deficit disorder and is misunderstood and disliked at school, her parents love her dearly. This fine, unusual novel is sweet and melancholy, indulgent of language and of the fragile oddballs who so relish in it. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,
A dozen sharp new stories by one of contemporary fiction's acknowledged masters
"Synopsis" by , A. L. Kennedy's riveting new story collection is a luscious feast of language that encompasses real estate and forlorn pets, adolescents and sixty-somethings, weekly liaisons and obsessive affairs, "certain types of threat and the odder edges of sweet things." The women and men in these twelve stories search for love, solace, and a clear glimpse of what their lives have become. Anything can set them off thinking - the sad homogeneity of hotel breakfasts, a sex shop operated under Canadian values (whatever those are), or an army of joggers dressed as Santa.

With her boundless empathy and gift for the perfect phrase, Kennedy makes us care about each of her characters. In "Takes You Home," a man's attempt to sell his flat becomes a journey to the interior, by turns comic and harrowing. And "Late in Life" deftly evokes an intergenerational love affair free of the usual clichés, the younger partner asking the older, "What should I wear at your funeral?"

Alive with memory, humor, and longing, All the Rage is A. L. Kennedy at her inimitable best.

"Synopsis" by , From the award-winning author of Hotel World and The Accidental, a dazzling, funny, and wonderfully exhilarating new novel.

 

At a dinner party in the posh London suburb of Greenwich, Miles Garth suddenly leaves the table midway through the meal, locks himself in an upstairs room, and refuses to leave. An eclectic group of neighbors and friends slowly gathers around the house, and Miles’s story is told from the points of view of four of them: Anna, a woman in her forties; Mark, a man in his sixties; May, a woman in her eighties; and a ten-year-old named Brooke. The thing is, none of these people knows Miles more than slightly. How much is it possible for us to know about a stranger? And what are the consequences of even the most casual, fleeting moments we share every day with one another?

Brilliantly audacious, disarmingly playful, and full of Smith’s trademark wit and puns, There but for the is a deft exploration of the human need for separation—from our pasts and from one another—and the redemptive possibilities for connection. It is a tour de force by one of our finest writers.

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