“Autumn” by Ali Smith
(First publication: October 2016 / This edition: Penguin Random House 2016)
Taken with my much-needed mocha at Grindsize cafe
It is possible to be in love with not someone, but with their eyes. I mean, with how eyes that aren’t yours let you see where you are, who you are.
[…] We have to hope […] that the people who love us and who know us a little bit will in the end have seen us truly. In the end, not much else matters. (pg.160)
I’m about 75% way through this book.
And I’m sorry, but I cannot go any further.
Everyone’s raving about this book, and… I don’t get why. It makes me feel out of the loop and I feel like I’ve missed something.
I got this book at the John Sandoe bookshop in London. What a blissful little place. I took a bus there alone and spent almost an hour browsing through the shelves and all the nooks and crannies. There wasn’t a book in mind that I actually wanted, but like with my visits to all the other bookstores there, I felt like I had to get a book from each place or else the guilt would haunt my forever.
Anyway, so as I was close to giving into not getting anything (as my luggage was already overweight, after all) I noticed this book “Autumn” by Ali Smith on a little table in front of the cashier. I’d never read anything by Ali Smith—there was just one brief encounter when I was considering getting her “How to Be Both”, but didn’t. I had never heard of “Autumn” and the cover didn’t really look interesting. However, there was a little sticker on the cover saying “Signed by the author”.
Having always lived in cities without such a big concentration of English books and English bookstore and British authors, I’d never encountered books with “Signed by the author” stickers before… and it blew my mind. My heart was thumping like a maniac, on steroids.
So without even bothering to look inside or to find out more about the book, I purchased it. My first ever “Signed by the author” purchase. A British author, a British book, in the English-est bookstore I’ve ever seen.
(Above: Taken at the Workshop Coffee in Fitzrovia, London)
Needless to say, I searched for these “Signed by author” stickers in every bookshop I stepped into after that. (Hello, Alain de Botton? Matt Haig? …Oscar Wilde???)
Anyway, back to the book.
There’s actually not much I want to say about it. I just didn’t enjoy it. I was thinking that maybe I can blame the fact that in the past week and a half, I’ve been so crazy busy with work (weekends, late-nights and over-nighters at the office) so I couldn’t get my heart into it… but it’s not that. I realized that:
(Let’s bullet-point this)
- I didn’t like any of the characters. They all just seemed to be complaining and complaining and complaining. If not complaining, they’re purposely trying to trigger other people—trying to be a nuisance, making a big deal out of things, or just want to argue for the sake of arguing.
- I didn’t like the style of writing. Many parts of it would be in short
sentencesphrases, and when you get to the end of the page, you have no idea what you just read. I often felt like it was like reading poems instead of a novel-style book, and so I had to keep trying to decipher what the hell is going on. It was just tiring and annoying. I wanted proper sentences—or at least better explanations following.
- Nothing seemed to be going anywhere.
- I’m 75% through and I still don’t know what the plot is.
- I’d end up going through whole chapters not understanding any of it.
And this makes me sad, because everyone seems to be hyping up about this book. Even Monocle’s Forecast (issue 05 2017) that just arrived today recommended it.
Maybe I’m missing something.
So… maybe, just maybe, I’ll give it another chance some other time.