Girl meets boy. It’s a story as old as time. But in Whitbread winner Ali Smith’s lyrical, funny, mash-up of Ovid’s most joyful gender-bending metamorphosis story, girl meets boy in so many more ways than one. Imogen and Anthea, sisters that are opposites, work together at Pure, a creative agency attempting to bottle imagination, politics, and nature” in the form of a new Scottish bottled-water business with global aspirations. Anthea, somewhat flighty and bored with the office environment, becomes enamored of an interventionist protest artist” nicknamed Iphisol, whose billboard-size corporate slurs around town are the bane of Pure’s existence. And when Anthea and Iphisol meet, it’s a match made in heaven. Girl Meets Boy is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, the absurdity of consumerism, as well as a story of reversals and revelations that’s as sharply witty as it is lyrical. Funny, fresh, poetic, and political, Girl Meets Boy is a myth of metamorphosis for a world made in Madison Avenue’s image, and the funniest addition to The Myths series from Canongate since The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.
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Ali Smith was born in Inverness, Scotland, and lives in Cambridge. She is the author of award-winning Free Love and Hotel World (also shortlisted for the Orange and Man Booker Prize); and of Other Stories and Other Stories; The Whole Stories and Other Stories and The Accidental. Smith writes for The Guardian, The Scotsman and the TLS.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Let me tell you about when I was a girl, our grandfather says.
It is Saturday evening; we always stay at their house on Saturdays. The couch and the chairs are shoved back against the walls. The teak coffee table from the middle of the room is up under the window. The floor has been cleared for the backward and forward somersaults, the juggling with oranges and eggs, the how-to-do-a-cartwheel, how-to-stand-on-your-head, how-to-walk-on-your-hands lessons. Our grandfather holds us upside-down by the legs until we get our balance. Our grandfather worked in a circus before he met and married our grandmother. He once did headstands on top of a whole troupe of headstanders. He once walked a tightrope across the Thames. The Thames is a river in London, which is five hundred and twenty-seven miles from here, according to the mileage chart in the RAC book in among our father’s books at home. Oh, across the Thames, was it? our grandmother says. Not across the falls at Niagara? Ah, Niagara, our grandfather says. Now that was a whole other kittle of fish.
It is after gymnastics and it is before Blind Date. Sometimes after gymnastics it is The Generation Game instead. Back in history The Generation Game was our mother’s favourite programme, way before we were born, when she was as small as us. But our mother isn’t here any more, and anyway we prefer Blind Date, where every week without fail a boy chooses a girl from three girls and a girl chooses a boy from three boys, with a screen and Cilla Black in between them each time. Then the chosen boys and girls from last week’s programme come back and talk about their blind date, which has usually been awful, and there is always excitement about whether there’ll be a wedding, which is what it’s called before people get divorced, and to which Cilla Black will get to wear a hat.
But which is Cilla Black, then, boy or girl? She doesn’t seem to be either. She can look at the boys if she wants; she can go round the screen and look at the girls. She can go between the two sides of things like a magician, or a joke. The audience always laughs with delight when she does it.
You’re being ridiculous, Anthea, Midge says shrugging her eyes at me.
Cilla Black is from the sixties, our grandmother says as if that explains everything.
It is Saturday tea-time, after supper and before our bath. It is always exciting to sit in the chairs in the places they usually aren’t. Midge and I, one on each knee, are on our grandfather’s lap and all three of us are wedged into the pushed-back armchair waiting for our grandmother to settle. She drags her own armchair closer to the electric fire. She puts her whole weight behind the coffee table and shoves it over so she can watch the football results. You don’t need the sound up for that. Then she neatens the magazines on the under-rack of the table and then she sits down. Steam rises off teacups. We’ve got the taste of buttered toast in our mouths. At least, I assume we all have it, since we’ve all been eating the same toast, well, different bits of the same toast. Then I start to worry. Because what if we all taste things differently? What if each bit of toast tastes completely different? After all, the two bits I’ve eaten definitely tasted a bit different even from each other. I look round the room, from head to head of each of us. Then I taste the taste in my own mouth again.
So did I never tell you about the time they put me in jail for a week when I was a girl? our grandfather says.
What for? I say.
For saying you were a girl when you weren’t one, Midge says.
For writing words, our grandfather says.
What words? I say.
NO VOTES NO GOLF, our grandfather says. They put us in jail because we wrote it into the golf green with acid, me and my friend. What’s a young girl like you wanting acid for? the chemist asked me when I went to get it.
Grandad, stop it, Midge says.
What’s a girl like you wanting with fifteen bottles of it? he said. I told him the truth, more fool me. I want to write words on the golf course with it, I told him and he sold me it, right enough, but then he went and told Harry Cathcart at the police station exactly who’d been round buying a job lot of acid. We were proud to go to jail, though. I was proud when they came to get me. I said to them all at the police station, I’m doing this because my mother can’t write her name with words, never mind vote. Your great-grandmother wrote her name with Xs. X X X. Mary Isobel Gunn. And when we went on the Mud March, our grandfather says. Boy oh boy. It was called the Mud March because — because why?
Because of some mud, I say.
Because of the mud we got all up the hems of our skirts, our grandfather says.
Grandad, Midge says. Don’t.
You should’ve heard the mix of accents coming out of us all, it was like a huge flock of all the different birds, all in the sky, all singing at once. Blackbirds and chaffinches and seagulls and thrushes and starlings and swifts and peewits, imagine. From all over the country we came, from Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Huddersfield, Leeds, all the girls that worked in clothing, because that’s what most of us did, textiles I mean, and from Glasgow, from Fife, even from right up here we went. Soon they were so afraid of us marching that they made brand new laws against us. They said we could only march in groups of no more than twelve of us. And each group of twelve girls had to be fifty yards away from any other group of twelve. And what do you think they threw at us for marching, what do you think they threw at us when we spoke in front of the great hordes of listening people?
Eggs and oranges, I say. Mud.
Tomatoes and fishheads, Midge says.
And what did we throw at the Treasury, at the Home Office, at the Houses of Parliament? he says.
Fishheads, I say.
I am finding the idea of throwing fishheads at official historic buildings very funny. Our grandfather tightens his hold round me.
No, he says. Stones, to break the windows.
Not very ladylike, Midge says from the other side of his head.
Actually, Miss Midge —, our grandfather says.
My name’s not Midge, Midge says.
Actually, as it happens, we were very ladylike indeed. We threw the stones in little linen bags that we’d made ourselves with our own hands especially to put the stones in. That’s how ladylike we were. But never mind that. Never mind that. Listen to this. Are you listening? Are you ready?
Here we go, our grandmother says.
Did I never tell you about the time when I was a really important, couldn’t-be-done-without part of the smuggling-out-of-the-country of Burning Lily herself, the famous Building-Burning-Girl of the North East?
No, I say.
No, Midge says.
Well, I will then. Will I? our grandfather says.
Yes, I say.
Okay, Midge says.
Are you sure? he says.
Yes! we say together.
Burning Lily, he says, was famous. She was famous for lots of things. She was a dancer, and she was very very beautiful.
Always the eye for the lasses, our grandmother says with her own eyes on the television.
And one day, our grandfather says, on her twenty-first birthday, the day that the beautiful (though not near as beautiful as your grandmother, obviously) the day that the beautiful Burning Lily became a fully fledged grown-up — which is what’s supposed to happen on the day you’re twenty-one — she looked in the mirror and said to herself, I’ve had enough of this. I’m going to change things. So she went straight out and broke a window as a birthday present to herself.
Ridiculous present, Midge says. I’m asking for a Mini Cooper for mine.
But soon she decided that breaking windows, though it was a good start, wasn’t quite enough. So she started setting fire to buildings — buildings that didn’t have any people in them. That worked. That got their attention. She was always being carted off to jail then. And in there, in jail, in her cell, you know what she did?
What? Midge says.
She just stopped eating, he says.
Why? I say and as I say it I taste the toast taste again all through the inside of me.
Because she was like anorexic, Midge says, and had seen too many pictures of herself in magazines.
Because there wasn’t anything else for her to do, our grandfather says to me over the top of Midge’s head. They all did it, to protest, then. We’d all have done it. I’d have done it too. So would you.
Well I wouldn’t, Midge says.
Yes you would. You’d do it too, if it was the only thing you could do. So then they made Burning Lily eat.
How? I said. You can’t make someone eat.
By putting a tube down her throat and by putting food down the tube. Except, they put it down the wrong part of her throat, into her windpipe, by mistake, and they pumped food right into her lungs.
Why? I say.
Uch, Midge says.
Rob, our grandmother says.
They have to know, our grandfather says. It’s true. It happened. And that thing with putting the tube into her windpipe had made her very very ill, so they had to let her out of the jail because she nearly died. And that would have been very bad publicity for the police and the jail and the government. But by the time Burning Lily got better they’d passed a new law which said: As soon as one of those girls has made herself better out there, and isn’t going to die here in jail, on our hands, as if it was us who killed her, we can go straight back out and arrest her again.
But you know what?
What? I say.
What? Midge says.
Burning Lily kept on slipping through their fingers. She kept on getting away with it. She kept on sett...
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Descripción Canongate U. S., 2007. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Estado de la sobrecubierta: New. First American Edition; First Printing. New hardback in like dust jacket. DJ price intact. First American Edition, complete number line. 164 pages, unmarked. ; TR12 K9k; 0.8 x 7.9 x 5.1 Inches; 164 pages. Nº de ref. de la librería 38999
Descripción Canongate U.S., 2007. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería M1847670199
Descripción Canongate Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2007. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Estado de la sobrecubierta: New. 1st Edition. New Book; "Lyrical, funny, mash-up of Ovid's most joyful gender-bending metamorphosis tale. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, the absurdity of consumerism, as well as a story of reversals and revelations that's as sharply witty as it is lyrical.". Nº de ref. de la librería 001287
Descripción Canongate U.S., 2007. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P111847670199