PInegrove Book Club - Ali Smith 'Spring'

life imitating art? nice

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thanks opossum. this interview is really saying some smart things about storytelling & politics! —the idea that boomers have framed the climate crisis based on thier on fears about mortality… that we’re trapped in the mind of a dying hippy… wow, & yes. gonna dive deeper later on


(Hi, I’m Mike! I’m late to the party…)

I agree with this (esh’s comments about Smith’s playful writing and point about story being a nightmare - think I replied in the wrong place!). Thought it was super interesting (and funny/playful) way to start with a character determined to stop “storying” himself and the things around him. That weird blend of third person narration that also feels like Richard’s inner monologue is interesting too.

Also loved the introduction. An intense read - added to by the jumbled font sizes - and the second section describing spring / nature as an unstoppable force was really quite moving. Especially the “what’s the key to the song of the bird. What’s forming the beak in the egg” p9


Ditto @jyvescuda ! the open-ended at least breathes more options for more resolutions :sailboat:

@Max @esh
multiplicity of voices as disparate and infinite as atoms (each one of us is 7 billion billion billion of those invisible plots!), [fear the possibility of a coerced tidal monolithic revival? celebrate the infinite!]
What is interesting in Spring is that Ali Smith pretty much grounds the contemporary time period she is setting this in or against, and it is here, and it is now (it is what we know, fear, agree or object to, like a confused but clear delineation, a template of reference). So there’s a frame for sure- where it begins or ends is part of the picture


what i’m impressed about is how smith has taken what we could maybe call the postmodern project, a literature of exhaustion (that is of information, of the encyclopedic accumulation of capital-K knowledge. i’m thinking of pynchon, gaddis, barth) into a reading experience that compared to all that other stuff is really quite accessible. she gestures toward hyperstimulation, or to destabilizing techniques, to hypercontemporary political conflict… but in practice the book is primarily FUN. so even though she’s addressing fear & alienation, the book doesnt do that. it’s complex but not infinite, & it’s framed quite sensibly in the midst of all this chaos.


& i guess it’s gotta be said that dfw was credited for doing exactly that w Jest. but this is a breeze compared to that! & that’s very much to smith’s credit. smith is maybe shoulder to shoulder then with ben lerner in revitalizing a very cerebral, very contemporary account of living as of a lineage of postmodernism which at the same time rejects a lot of the more gatekeeping obsessions of the earlier efforts


goodness gracious this is such a well-formed thought :sweat_smile:
agree 100%


welcome mike! thanks for your thoughts : ^)


@jyvescuda @esh

I agree too, such a good way to put it! I haven’t read much for fun since I started my degree and this book was a lot of fun to read, without losing any of its complexity. I saw someone ask this earlier but I don’t know if it ever got answered, but what did people think about the use of humour in the book?


so as we wind down i wanna remind everyone that we’ll be meeting here again same time next week to discuss section 2 of the novel. thanks SO much for everybody’s participation, whether that was reading, sharing some ideas, coming over to check out the message board. this is an experiment & i think so far a successful one! i’ll probably be checking back ~once every day or so for any new contributions. talk soon! <&


I remember reading the beginning part you refer to “Now what we don’t want is facts”, along with all the "we need"s / “what wants” and HEARING boris johnson’s voice saying it - it sounds very much like the way he says things on the news


right? same as trump - or the AFD in Germany -or basically right wing parties all over the world. maybe in a political sense we Smith could have gone from needs to wants to power - politics is a lot about framing the content i think - the trump interview with Chris Wallace is a lecture in populism - “give me our numbers”

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i agree! i wonder - what does it mean for the state of art? is the result of “everything has been done” and metafiction now - “everything is art or fiction” or can be the foundation of art? like if we cannot pin down the source , do we need a source at all? do we need facts? in this case - did life imitate the postmodern era in becoming post factual? - does that make any sense hahah


I both loved and hated the lack of any punctuation which could help defining the dialogue, I found it a very interesting choice! It does feel realistic though, makes sense for a flow of consciousness, every thought after the other without much distinction, that’s what happens when we think and this book from the beginning it’s been basically just him thinking and reminiscing over everything that happened, so I feel like it makes it more genuine and drawns the reader in even more than conventional narration would


hey everyone, coming into this late, but just wanted to share my thoughts! im dani from los angeles, ca, and i am SO excited that this is happening. cant wait to dive into spring even more with all of you.

i wanted to say that the first chapter gave me the same feeling that i get when i watch the news nowadays, or even when i log onto social media. lots of short and quick information that overwhelms you instantly, some sticking out more than others like the bigger font size, ideas being put out into the world then immediately scrapped for something better, fast paced, hard to keep up with, you get it. its feels almost as though smith wrote it a week ago.

also, the third chapter really blew me away. at first i wasn’t really sure what to make of it, even as i moved on from it, i couldnt stop thinking about it. as i read the rest of the section, i realized that it was richard’s train of thought (the fact that hes waiting for a train on the platform is also genius). hes tired of a storyline, of a past, of linearity, yet he keeps coming back to it. even his thought process told in third person as he narrates it. he cant escape it. it reminded me of the way i think when im by myself: going back and forth between a million ideas, imagining myself having conversations with people who aren’t there but i wish were, and what they’d have to say about everything im surrounded by. it makes the book feel familiar, like it has consciousness. it feels like a conversation im having instead of a story that im being told.


Hmmm. I hadn’t given much thought to how the book embodies traditional associations with spring - new life, rebirth, youth, innocence, optimism etc., but I do think it is interesting that so much of the first section revolves around Paddy’s death, and our main character Richard is in his older years - pretty much the opposite of all that spring represents. I think this juxtaposition is particularly interesting given the nature of the text in general - how experimental it is with form and style in all the ways you mentioned above. The non-linear structure, the self referential bits, the font size and general craziness of the first chapter - all of these elements make it feel like Smith is definitely being intentional about challenging her readers’ notion of what is normal or expected. I get the impression she wants her readers to be a little bit uncomfortable and to keep us on our toes so we’ll be more vigilant about considering some of the larger social issues that come up.


I read that that is one of the “points” of her Seasonal Quartet - to write the books as close to publication as possible in order to keep them relevant. Makes me really excited to see what Summer is going to be about!


Hi everyone! My name is Brian, and I’m from Ringwood, NJ. I’m sorry I missed the first part of this conversation, but I really enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts/interpretations.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the reliability of the narrator, specifically in regards to the people in Richard’s life. Paddy is essentially perfect, which is obviously how Richard sees her, and we get no real sense of her as a person, except through Richard’s lens. He is insulted at the idea that he can’t read a poem at her memorial, because to him (and to us), he was an important piece of her life. But we have no idea whether or not that’s true.

I found myself thinking a lot about the Twins, in part because not so long ago I was in their shoes, caring for a dying parent. I felt like a heel telling certain people that they couldn’t come visit my dad on certain days, or imploring folks to come see him before it was too late. I’m sure I came off like the Twins do here, self-interested or controlling. I know those are, perhaps, the two characters, aside from Terp, that you’re supposed to be least sympathetic towards, but I couldn’t help but attempt to see them outside of Richard’s perspective.

Re: Terp, I worry that the book is going to lean too hard into the ‘new technology/millennials/streaming services’ are bad approach, although clearly his ideas are awful and the idea of bowing to the whims of sponsors/networks is a bad one. I just find that it’s often too much of a binary conversation about new media.

The part of the book that I found both touching and disturbing was the idea of the imaginary daughter. On one hand, it’s a lovely way to live in a world where your pain and mistakes aren’t there to haunt you, but instead of Paddy’s advice being "do whatever you can to maintain a relationship, despite the distance, the hurt, etc,’ it was ‘retreat into your imagination.’ It seems to me that is a painfully selfish way to deal with the issue.

The daughter also reminded me of the ‘companion’ in the second half of The Last Temptation of Christ (leaving out her identity for those that haven’t read/seen that), though that may be an overly dark take.

Someone mentioned the references to the Struggles; I recently read Say Nothing, so I had a little context going into that which I wouldn’t necessarily have had six months ago. I think it’s too simplistic to view the Struggles as a metaphor for anything, really, but I think it is just reminding the reader that Paddy is quite literally from another time, a time when people were well read, when people fought for their freedom, etc. She represents the antithesis of today’s passivity.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this chat, and I look forward to part 2! Thanks for organizing this @esh!

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great questions— @large-sized.opossum shared a video up here that’s very relevant,

essentially the video argues that contemporary right-wing political strategy has been imported from the russian art world. horrifying

hello & welcome back!

i was intregued by this video mentioned in the final passage of the section, a bag of air (tacita dean, 1995)

it’s always of particular interest to me when writers create ambiguity around their work’s relationship to reality. here this inclusion of an artist from the real world complicates the book’s distinction as ‘fiction,’ as do all the many very contemporary references, but this stuck out to me as a particularly layered inclusion, describing the film as if we’re looking at it together, quoting verbatim some of dean’s monolog in the film. but then at the end of the passage, with the last sentence of section 2, we’re guided to what might be provisionally called a version of this novel’s thesis:

“three minutes of black and white film are over and what’s left is the story of human beings and air, something we hardly ever notice or think about, something we can’t live without.” (220)

& isnt that what this book is trying to do? reduce human spirit down to the shining essentials— strip back invasive technology & inhumane public policy to remind us humans of what simple compassion & joy we’re capable of. it’s an issue of noticing, the novel seems to be saying, & the more we point it out the better.