Public Library, Ali Smith, 2015
Smith, a 54 year old Scottish Lesbian writer, is one of the best scribblers of our time. Short stories, essays, novels—she does it all with humor, insight, and a wonderful knack for weird off-beat metaphors, situations, and settings. This volume of 12 stories was stimulated by a wave of public library closures across the U.K. prompted by an attempt to reduce budgets. The stories are intermixed with interviews with people whose names I didn’t recognize, but who are probably friends of hers who recount their childhood experiences with public libraries to show how important they are for developing children especially those whose homes and financial situations didn’t enable them to have books of their own at home. Smith, in her usual off beat style (Dusty Springfield, woman in a wheelchair left behind on a commuter train, WWI images of Austrians executing Serbs, a very weird one about a rose bush growing out of a woman’s chest, a fictional/true bio of Olive Fraser, a Scottish woman poet, DH Lawrence and a Barclays card charge from Lufthansa), engages the reader’s attention in a split second and then wanders all over the map to get in her observations about life, death, and the contingency of it all. All in the service of saving the U.K’s. public libraries. Love her work and eager to read more.