PInegrove Book Club - Ali Smith 'Spring'

Hello everyone! I’m Jordan from England. My first impression of the book was definitely a sense of disorientation and I was slightly worried I might not be able to fully grasp the key ideas behind the story, but I’m glad that things became much clearer later on. So far I’ve especially enjoyed how many references there are mentioned in the story, such as Brexit, giving a political commentary. Alongside the fictional story there’s also mentions of Tacita Deans artwork, which has been a really interesting and effective way to move the story along which also captures an artistic dialogue which perfectly reflects societal issues. The book has mainly surprised me (in a good way), as judging by the cover (which I know I shouldn’t do) this isn’t what I would have imagined the story would be about so far. I look forward to reading the rest!

5 Likes

hi everybody,
max here from stuttgart / germany - to be honest the first pages like most of you already wrote were quite a piece of work - super fragmented and i thought it was hard to follow the narration at first - but a few pages in it gets an interesting drive - stream of consciousness like maybe. in my opinion leaving out the quotation marks kinda binds the text closer together, like narration and dialogue seem to be the same, does that make any sense?
i really love the beginning - “Now what we don’t want is facts.” - this quote seems to work for so many fields nowadays - politics, art, fiction, etc. - it feels super Zeitgeist-ish
also - Richard and Paddy seem to be not very up-to-date concerning their work - that why i thought - it might not be their spring - its the spring of something or someone else maybe? or maybe the repetition of something .
concerning the perception of art in the book - does anyone feel it could be a bit cocky maybe? like a rating of what could be seen as true or high art in some sort - does that make sense?

3 Likes

i’m tempted to agree, we’re only in part 1. what we’re seeing is still positioning, exposition kinda… the real spring is going to happen later on i bet

4 Likes

Hello! I am Lulu, I’m a film major in Chicago.

The last time I sat down to read a book for fun was in high school, and it was the Percy Jackson series, so it’s been a while.

This book is overall really interesting. I like that the formatting of the book is almost off-putting at first. It makes it feel more like Richards train of thought as he goes about his life rather than us, the readers, observing his life from a third person point of view. I’m also a big fan of the varying ways Ali Smith uses the font itself as a way to tell the story. It’s fun and immerses you into the story instead of just having to stare at a block of text.

5 Likes

Hi Michael, Allison here. To your point, I find myself constantly having to remind myself that what I am getting of others in stories and in life has already been filtered through at least one lens. With my own perspective counting as the first one. Especially true so far of Paddy in Spring. True of the two writers in April as well. True even maybe of Richard given that the narrator has an ever vaguely present personality of their own (sometimes humorous, possibly judgy). Like Paddy says, "There’s a difference between narrative strategy and reality, but they’re symbiotic). Makes me wonder if every person has a narrative strategy, and if so, what’s reality without them?

9 Likes

I agree that he may be just as unreliable as we all are. But that is precisely the dimension of as in Ali Smith is testing that relationship with trust/conspiracy/objectivity. Has anyone come across this:

(added: hope it’s ok to share, it was a bit of a lightswitch moment for me remembering it in the context of the discussion)
From the offset of the book, we are placed in contemporary landscapes of frustration we recognise, so I’m trying to dig into what what @esh is saying about the narrative strategies and what we’ve discussed about unreliability and thread it somewhat?

( ASIDES: about the email bit // and the brave idealistic step over the considered action going with what he knows (Twerp aint gonna have it, and why send it just to him with no producer’s oversight?!) instead of change coming through incremental changes
+
I’m very curious about what peeps think about the use of humour so far?)

2 Likes

You all are so thoughtful, and this is wonderful. I have to drop, but cannot wait to discuss Part 2.

6 Likes

she’s using so many stylistic tricks to draw us in deeper! for me it worked

4 Likes

Oh absolutely! Me too!

2 Likes

destabilizing is the name of the game these days isnt it… so one question is if we want books that do that too, or are we craving stability now?

2 Likes

Want it/ can’t have it -

Are we better off without it?

1 Like

btw i just watched that piece. very cogent explanation of what’s going on in global politics. doesnt mention the US once but every single idea there could be imported to US politics, especially (but not limited to) the trump era

2 Likes

One thing the book is saying, I think, is how complex other people are. Which, without sounding really self absorbed (I hope?), is easy to forget sometimes. - I get this impression largely from Paddy’s explanation of the 60 million migrants and Richard’s references to having /a lack of/ a story.

Smith writing in this non linear style, gliding between thoughts / memories / present reality / screens, reminds me of the fact that other people are just as complex as myself because it echoes the way that my own experience isn’t neat or linear (we all have memories, we all have context). The style of writing acts a reminder that everyone I meet is as intricate as myself and I find it refreshing and terrifying.

I understand this may sound a little far fetched but I hope it makes some sort of sense!!

6 Likes

i think as a reader i appreciate being confused occasionally, that’s sometimes the terrain where the more ‘profound art experiences’ happen… ambiguity allows us to layer meaning. but i do love me some resolution

6 Likes

i would say yes - or at least we are buying it - or a lot of people like economically and politically - and art imitates life and life and so on - so wouldn’t you say it is just a matter of time till art will adopt that?

2 Likes

absolutely. & i’d even say that since non-linearity, or temporal flexibility, is a foundational way a person experiences consciousness, any totally linear book is not capturing (or for that matter trying to capture) consciousness in that way

2 Likes

@esh @large-sized.opossum
Can appreciate confusion and a lack of stability as I feel like it is the more relatable option… Maybe with enough I could one day stop seeking “wrapped up with a bow on top” type of resolutions to my own personal life experiences hahaha

5 Likes

Cogent is the name of the game Adam Curtis plays:
highly recommend his documentary features (HyperNormalistion 2016 made waves)
and on US, he is currently working on a series related to:

3 Likes

i have a though about this, gonna try it out here. we are maybe in a period of almost infinite stylistic variation. we are beyond post- whatever & consequently beyond art as a single force responding to anything monolithically. whereas we used to see artists en-masse responding to cultural events like WWii, any reaction we see will be stylistically & conceptually varied to the point of a million fractured subcultures. so whether Art will adopt anything is maybe too broad of a frame for that, tho we will certainly see responses that confirm & subvert that viewpoint, & everywhere in between

9 Likes

One of the things that I found intersting was Richard’s constant questioning of his own understanding of the world. I think it was interesting to see how he almost felt as if he was being squeezed out, and it showed how a person’s identity can sometimes feel as though it is in question at times when life stops making sense to them. I think the non linear style really helped to get this theme across for me.

3 Likes