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Ali Smith

  • Scottish writer
  • Born 1962

Ali Smith CBE FRSL (born 24 August 1962) is a Scottish author, playwright, academic and journalist. Sebastian Barry described her in 2016 as "Scotland's Nobel laureate-in-waiting".


How could 30 years be the blink-of-the-eye it felt? It was the difference between black-and-white footage of the Second World War and David Bowie on 'Top of the Pops' singing 'Life on Mars.'




Short stories consume you faster. They're connected to brevity. With the short story, you are up against mortality. I know how tough they are as a form, but they're also a total joy.




It's the word 'artful'; it's such a great word, with its dark and its light side, its art and its cunning, the craft and the crafty of it - I've been preoccupied with the word 'artful' and the twin notions of 'cornucopia' and 'pickpocket' it suggests for quite some time.




We're well past the end of the century when time, for the first time, curved, bent, slipped, flash forwarded, and flashed back yet still kept rolling along. We know it all now, with our thoughts traveling at the speed of a tweet, our 140 characters in search of a paragraph. We're post-history. We're post-mystery.




As for Aliki - if you were to stand in the middle of Rome and say the name Sophia Loren, or Paris and say the name Catherine Deneuve or Brigitte Bardot, or L.A. and the name Marilyn Monroe, it's like standing in Athens, or anywhere in wide-flung Greece, and saying Aliki Vougiouklaki. A huge star - and so little known elsewhere in the world.




Nothing is harmful to literature except censorship, and that almost never stops literature going where it wants to go either, because literature has a way of surpassing everything that blocks it and growing stronger for the exercise.




I'm blessed in my good friends, and some of them happen to be writers, though that's almost never what our friendships are about. And every writer I've ever read, living or dead, has in one way or another helped and inspired. I have a feeling it's important not to mix the two up.




I went to the top of Vesuvius and looked in.




A good argument, like a good dialogue, is always a proof of life, but I'd much rather go and read a book.




What I know most is that the difference between us is what makes us interesting and attractive and problematic and exciting and vital to each other. Give me difference over indifference any day.




I was at the tail end of the family. The next brother along was already seven years older than me. I remember growing up by myself, playing games by myself.




Fashion is fickle, and I was published because I was fashionable. Because I was gay.




My father is from Newark in Nottinghamshire and my mother is from the very north of Ireland. They've ended up in Scotland, where my father - well, both of them - will always be seen as having come from somewhere else.




Words are like untying a corset - you can move into this great space with them.




But everything written has style. The list of ingredients on the side of a cornflakes box has style. And everything literary has literary style. And style is integral to a work. How something is told correlates with - more - makes what's being told. A story is its style.




All we need to do, reader or writer, from first line to final page, is be as open as a book, and be alive to the life in language - on all its levels.




I don't want a tombstone. You could carve on it 'She never actually wanted a tombstone.'




I had a job, I got ill, I left the job to get better, and while I was getting better, I wrote some stories. I sent them to some publishers and the fifth one who replied said they'd take them. Then they went bankrupt. Then that bankrupt publisher got bought by a bigger firm. Story: in the end is the beginning, and in the beginning is the end.




A game one of my sisters will play with me in my first year of being alive is called Good Baby, Bad Baby. This consists of being told I am a good baby until I smile and laugh, then being told I am a bad baby until I burst into tears. This training will stand me in good stead all through my life.




I wouldn't call my work Modernist. I would rust if I try to think about labels. I'd feel like the Tin Man in 'The Wizard of Oz.'




You never know if you're a writer. You can't trust it. If you woke up and said, 'I'm a writer,' it would be gone. You wouldn't see anything for miles - even the dust would be running away.




We'd never expect to understand a piece of music on one listen, but we tend to believe we've read a book after reading it just once.




Even things which seem separate and finished are infinitely connected and will infinitely connect. This connection happens as soon as you let it, as soon as you engage - as soon as you even attempt to engage.



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