Review: How to be Both – Ali Smith.

This reading funk has been getting out of hand, but I think – think and hope – that it’s finally over. Ali Smith’s How to be Both has been sitting waiting for quite some time to be read, and I’ve finally gotten through it.

I like Ali’s inventiveness. I like the fact she stopped a print run half way through to change the order so there’s more than one way to experience her book. But, say, if you have a thing for things like grammar and punctuation, you might have some trouble.

But I still like it. It’s a bit off-the-wall in style, it definitely lives up to the hype of being something different, and the two separate narratives are each full of merits in their own right. There’s modern day George and historic Francesco – they’re bound by art in some way, and that’s massively underselling their individual storylines, but hey.

They parallel, and they don’t, there’s some things that make them seem strongly linked and others that set themselves apart distinctly; I suppose that’s kind of the point. It’s experimental, playful and throws punctuation out the window. But once you get your head around the great leaps to-and-fro without distinctly telling you you’re in the past/present/future, once you have a tentative finger on this acrobatic pulse, then it’s quite fun.


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