PInegrove Book Club - Ali Smith 'Spring'

Hello I’m flo from england - I studied autumn as a text for my english exam last year and I liked it a lot:)!

First impressions of spring: I think the way the words have been put together are beautiful, in so many instances. Also I feel the poetic style of writing has allowed Smith to resemble real life very closely in a really unique way (internal thoughts, relationships with others, politics affecting the individual)

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glad you’re enjoying it! welcome

absolutely!—any instances stand out of the style doing a lot for what the book is trying to say?

Just a little note, but the lack of quotations marks in dialogue is super super interesting to me!! Do we need them anymore? Shall they be done away with? Haha
I almost think it makes it seem like the text is being literally written as it would be just “in your head,” versus on physical paper where you would be more concerned with formalities of punctuation etc etc. It’s like the story is written as a long thought. Also, font size works into that as well. Hope that makes sense

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right! a trumpet blast to start it off. welcome

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hey! i’m christina, i’m from chicago and am super excited to have an excuse to read for fun again.

I think this question is interesting because i spent most of the first third of the book not really thinking about anything other than the “slice of life” of richard that we’re given. Which maybe is poor reading on me, but I gravitate more towards the school of camp that the book (at least this section) isn’t really trying to make big claims about the state of the world as much as it is making a lot of very smal claims about the state of richards world which might allow us insight into our own personal world which maaaaaybe if we think really hard about it might give us insight to the whole world at large.

themes of death were also really interesting to read as someone who is really young. I am (hopefully) nowhere near the part of my life where the people i love and care about and grew up with are starting to pass away from natural causes and the way paddy’s death and richards thoughts about it were presented felt so bleak. in general, reading this as a young person feels really bleak, to be honest. like no one plans on becoming a richard but there are many of them im sure.

overall i am really intrigued as to where ali smith takes the story next. the juxtaposition of richard feeling like he is at the end of his life + paddy’s passing against the literal title of the book, which implies youth and hope and light creates a really interesting lens through which to see everything happening.

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I also like how the dialogue can read like a script with the parentheses for context (p.21: Pause. Cigarette, inbreath, outbreath smoke.) - I’m seeing the film within a film - perhaps it says something about how much cultural content a lot of us have come to consume on the screen?

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hello, noah here! very excited to be something completely new to me - i love reading books but never have had too many people to discuss them with.

as for first impressions, the first three chapters really, really excited me. i was confused as to what the book was going to be (i haven’t read autumn or winter yet) and these opening chapters were so disorienting in a way i’ve never experienced before. i was hooked in a way i haven’t been in awhile and (embarrassed to admit that i broke the number #1 rule of book club) finished it incredibly quickly. I just couldn’t stop reading! (i’ll be sure to not spoil anything :slight_smile: )

when the book locks into richard’s narrative, i was initially upset to be losing the unexpectedness that came with starting a new chapter in the beginning, but ali smith still found ways to rip apart my notion of what the book was and i am eager to discuss/learn from everyone else

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Hello. Michael from Madison, WI. I found myself thinking a lot about the relationship between April the movie and April the film running parallel to the narration by Richard surrounding Paddy in the novel Spring. It is easy to take for granted because Richard generally seems like a good lib that our perceptions of Paddy are completely filtered through his gaze (or the gaze of the twins). I felt this acutely in Richard’s reaction to seeing her name in her obituary, and his reaction to a name that he does not associate with her. Smith drives home this power of narrating other people’s stories in the e-mail exchange regarding Paddy’s obituary.

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hello! yep i agree there’s a little bit of wallace in here.
richard deletes an email, but he also sends a pretty bold one. do you think screens/ anonymity work both ways in terms of withholding, or conversely just going for it?

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Christopher here from Toronto. Thanks for organizing this @esh ! You’re a dream.

I was completely entranced by the whirlwind introduction. It perfectly encapsulated the steroidized barrage of emotion, permutating (mis/dis)information, and general dread/anxiety of the current political climate. It was certainly Infinite Jest-y @jyvescuda! and I loved every moment of it. To your point about it feeling like a long thought - I completely agree. I feel her approach to the format is forcing me to reflect the goings-on in the book against my own ladder of inferences/expectations in a thought provoking way. I’m trying to notice how I might assume or derive meaning from passages that aren’t clearly laid out as actions, thoughts, dialogue etc. It’s like she’s coercing me to navigate through her story on a conscious level, and to think critically about how I subconsciously receive the information she is presenting.

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thanks for your thoughts christina! you’re bringing up a lot of questions that were important to me as i was reading too—i was especially preoccupied with whether we are getting richard’s voice or maybe a voice hovering just above richard’s, that knows just every so slightly more than he does, enough to make fun of him a little bit.

also was pretty fascinated by smith’s refusal to give us a classic rendition of spring. we’re conditioned to think of spring as a rebirth, & yet… there’s a surprising amount of death. tho this IS only section 1, so maybe she has to establish the death before we can experience any sort of rebirth as readers.

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thanks christopher, good thoughts here. there’s definitely a cat & mouse game going on with the reader… i see smith as very playful… & that extends to compelling the reader to think about how theyre reading the book! & certainly that’s an important quality to wallace’s work too

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Hey Chris, Do you think the narrator is unreliable? I am also feeling coerced/ fake news etc but hard to say which side of the book that may be coming from… I’m trying to find a quotation that gives that sense. I swear the 3rd person narration offers judgment on Richard at one/some points (or was it his inner voice?)

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@Esh I really liked the spring imagery that focused on buds hanging on dead branches (I don’t know if quoting the quotes from before the book starts is cheating), but she repeats that image a few times which is really beautiful and not often represented

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Agreed! I’m expecting an about-face from where we left off with Richard underneath the train. The very first scene with him at the train station came across as bleak - A plain, lonely, old man just getting by with what little he has left. I felt like the return to him on the platform at the end of the section really quickly reminded me of how I felt during that first scene, even though we got to know Richard a little more deeply throughout the chapter. I suspect it won’t be as typical as

  1. Man attempts suicide.
  2. Man is stopped by an external force.
  3. Man finds new meaning in life.

I’m very excited to see what direction she takes his story.

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such an important question! i kind of settled on the narrater hovering just over richard’s head… cosmically distant just enough to make fun of him a little. but it could just be his reflexive self loathing. in any case it seems to me that smith has left some ambiguity there & that does a lot for the voice

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she’s absolutely choosing those images to hang over the text! good eye

Is Richard the narrator? I can’t tell if it’s a totally removed narrator, or if it’s a hybridized Richard & just above his head POV. If it is Richard, I don’t get the vibe that he’s unreliable in the sense that I shouldn’t trust him. But I think he’s unreliable just as much as any of us might be when it comes down to our own subjective reactions and interpretations of our surroundings. What are your thoughts? :open_mouth:

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(True. I guess just goes to show there is such a large range of what you will say/share versus what you actually feel/think, which itself is based on inifiniteeee factors (your sort of “baseline” personality, what happened to you that day, substance!, infinite other things…) haha. I can’t pinpoint what would have maybe seemed to “trigger” Richard’s confidence on the day he sent the bold email but, sure ya could find something with a look back. His conversation with Paddy? … I don’t like that screens create such a disconnect between what is felt and what is said, but screens are also allowing us to have this book chat so, :woman_shrugging: ) ((Waited way too long to type and share this, moving on… lol ))

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