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Girl Meets Boy (Myths) by Ali Smith

Girl Meets Boy (Myths) (edition 2008)

by Ali Smith

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5252419,248 (3.8)41
Title:Girl Meets Boy (Myths)
Authors:Ali Smith
Info:Canongate Books (2008), Paperback, 166 pages
Collections:Your library

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Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis by Ali Smith


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Fragments and some unrelated scenes tolds in the first person by two sisters.

Ali Smith surprises from the beginning, she is able of "writing" the story inside our heads, more than in the paper lines, she has a soft, natural, queer approach, evoking almost automatically Virginia Woolf's "Orlando". For example, it is evening, grandfather sits his two granddaughters in the lap, grandmother nearby, and starts telling them stories of his youth, when he was a girl; or when Anthea falls in love with Robin, while she is climbing down a ladder after painting a bold protest phrase in the façade of corporate headquarters:“He was the most beautiful boy I had ever seen in my life. But he really looked like a girl. She was the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen in my life.
And it's not just about the loves of the two sisters, it is also about the ambiance of Scotland, the strangeness of London and Englishness, work ethics and political protest, and more... all painted in our minds with a few beautiful strokes.

My first book of Ali Smith, yes, first, because it will not be the last, for sure!
( )
  jmx | Jun 20, 2017 |
Oh, I liked this book a lot.


Some quotes:

"I felt like the Internet, full of every kind of information but none of it mattering more than any of it, and all of its little links like thin white roots on a broken plant dug out of the soil, lying drying on its side. And whenever I tried to access myself, whenever I'd try to click on me, try to go any deeper when it came to the meaning of 'I', I mean deeper than a single fast-loading page on Facebook or MySpace, it was as if I knew that one morning I'd wake up and try to log on to find that not even that version of 'I' existed any more, because the servers all over the world were all down." (pp. 23–4)

"Like that poem I knew, about how you sit and read your way through a book then close the book and put it on the shelf, and maybe, life being so short, you'll die before you ever open that book again and its pages, the single pages, shut in the book on the shelf, will maybe never see light again, which is why I had to leave the shop, because the man who owned it was looking at me oddly, because I was doing the thing I find myself doing in all bookshops because of that maddening poem — taking a book off a shelf and fanning it open so that each page sees some light, then putting it back on, then taking the next one along off and doing the same [...]" pp. 29–30

"Water in a bottle makes two billion pounds a year in the UK alone. Water in a bottle costs the consumer roughly ten thousand times the amount that the same measure of tapwater costs him." p. 35

"I got up to get us a drink of water and as I stood in the kitchen in the early morning light, running the water out of the tap, I looked out at the hills at the back of the town, at the trees on the hills, at the bushes in the garden, at the birds, at the brand new leaves on a branch, at a cat on a fence, at the bits of wood that made the fence, and I wondered if everything I saw, if maybe every landscape we casually glanced at, was the outcome of an ecstasy we didn't even know was happening, a love-act moving at a speed slow and steady enough for us to be deceived into thinking it was just everyday reality." pp. 104–5

"It had been exciting, first the not knowing what Robin was, then the finding out. The grey area, I'd discovered, had been misnamed: really the grey area was a whole other spectrum of colours new to the eye. She had the swagger of a girl. She blushed like a boy. She had a girl's toughness. She had a boy's gentleness. She was as meaty as a girl. She was as graceful as a boy. She was brave and handsome and rough as a girl. She was as pretty and delicate and dainty as a boy. She turned boys' heads like a girl. She turned girls' heads like a boy. She made love like a boy. She made love like a girl. She was so boyish it was girlish, so girlish it was boyish, she made me want to rove the world writing our names on every tree." p. 84

"I felt met by him the first time I saw him. I felt met by him all the times we weren't even able to meet each other's eyes." p. 138
  csoki637 | Nov 27, 2016 |
The blurb of this book grabbed me, and then I opened a page, and it really didn't let me go until the end.

This is a powerful little book.

It's feminist. It has LGBTIQA characters, it's based in Ancient myth. What more do you want, really?

But in all seriousness, this is a really well-crafted book. I wish it hadn't been so sparse in places but it's lovely just to read a book about my own kind of people for once.

I would be interested in reading the rest of Smith's work, but I'll be honest, I don't think anything will top this book. I don't think anything will be able to surpass how I feel about this book.

The characters aren't always fully-developed - and I know that's part of the style, but sometimes I wish they were. It's an interesting concept because sometimes you get to see things through the characters' eyes but I would've liked a little more detail.

... that said, this is a champion of a book. I read it, and immediately passed it on to a friend.

Well done, Ali Smith. And thank you. ( )
  lydia1879 | Aug 31, 2016 |
"The river laughed. I swear it did. It laughed and it changed as I watched. As it changed, it stayed the same. The river was all about time, it was about how little time actually mattered. I looked at my watch. Fuck. I was an hour and a half late. Ha ha! The river laughed at me again."

Girl Meets Boy is part of the Myths series published by Canongate where authors re-tell exisitng myths and stories. Other authors in this series include Margaret Atwood, Karen Armstrong, AS Byatt, David Grossman, Milton Hatoum, Natsuo Kirino, Alexander McCall Smith, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Victor Pelevin, Su Tong, Dubravka Ugresic, Salley Vickers and Jeanette Winterson. It looks like an interesting project.

Girl Meets Boy is Smith's retelling of Ovid's story of Iphis and Ianthe, which deals with the idea gender fluidity or transformation within the context of heteronormativity. What Smith does, however, is to tell the story, or rather a story playing with similar ideas, in the context of two sisters, Anthea and Imogen ("Midge"), based in one of my favourite places - Inverness.

Anthea is a free-spirited idealist who dislikes her job in the local PR firm her sister got her. Imogen is a straight-laced pragmatist who is pursuing her ambitions in the same firm, which currently tries to market over-priced bottled water. The story really kicks off when a protester by the artistic alias of Iphis07 vandalises the PR firm's property:

"It was a beautiful day.
The boy up the ladder at the gate was in a kilt and sporran. The kilt was a bright red tartan; the boy was black-waistcoated and had frilly cuffs, I could see the frills at his wrists as I came closer. I could see the glint of the knife in his sock. I could see the glint of the little diamond spangles on the waistcoat and the glint that came off the chain that held the sporran on. He had long dark hair winged with ringlets, like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, but cleaner. He was spray-painting, in beautiful red calligraphy, right under the Pure insignia, these words:

I know, I know, it all sounds a bit insipid so far, but it isn't just a story of one sister conforming to what (she thinks) is expected of her and one defying "the man" - Girl Meets Boy, like all stories in Ovid's Metamorphoses, is a story of transformation.

So, when Anthea falls in love with Robin (the protester), it encourages Anthea to figure out what she wants from life but it also opens up Midge to examine her own ideas about ... well, everything, really, and it is in the telling of how both sisters go through this change that Smith really shines. I particularly love the humor .....

"Like double oh seven. Daniel Craig in Casino Royal, rising out of the water like that goddess on a shell, I said. Lo and behold.
Ursula Andress did it first, she said. I mean, after Venus herself, that is. In fact, Daniel Craig and Ursula Andress look remarkably alike, when you compare them."

and the curiosity....

"Then I wondered why on earth would anyone ever stand in the world as if standing in the cornucopic middle of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon but inside a tiny white-painted rectangle about the size of a single space in a car park, refusing to come out of it, and all round her or him the whole world, beautiful, various, waiting?"

and the warmth...

"I get up. I call the police station. The man on the desk is unbelievably informal.

Oh aye, he says. Now, is it one of the message girls or boys or whatever, or one of the seven dwarves that you’re after? Which one would you like? We’ve got Dopey, Sneezy, Grumpy, Bashful, Sleepy, Eye-fist, and another one whose name I’d have to look up for you.

I’d like to talk to my sister, Anthea Gunn, please, I say. And that’s enough flippancy about their tag from you.

About their what, now? he says.

Years from now, I say, you and the Inverness Constabulary will be nothing but a list of dry dusty names locked in an old computer memory stick. But the message girls, the message boys. They’ll be legend.

Uh huh, he says. Well, if you’d like to hang up your phone now, Ms Gunn, I’ll have your wee sister call you back in a jiffy.

(I consider making a formal complaint, while I wait for the phone to go. I am the only person permitted to make fun of my sister.)"

All of which I associate with Inverness anyway and which is somewhat represented by the concerns of locals over Flora MacDonald braving the weather in front of the court house with a bare neck.

(Yeah, yeah, I know it was a stunt for Caley Thistle winning the league, but check out some of the comments on here. ) ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
This book is part of the Canongate Myth Series, in which authors take an ancient myth and reimagine it in contemporary culture. "Girl Meets Boy" is an update of the Myth of Iphis from Ovid's "Metamorphoses", told from the perspective of two sisters in Inverness, Scotland. The older sister adopts a conservative, stereotypical female role - being the caregiver and accepting herself as subordinate to the men in her life. The other sister eventually takes on a role that defies female societal expectations. It is through the understanding and acceptance of her younger sister's true self that the older sister is able to define herself in a way that truly reflects who she is.

What does it mean to be female? What does it mean to be male? Are they exclusive, or gradations of a scheme...is one either, both, or somewhere in between? Does the distinction even matter? These are all questions raised in the book, and ones I will continue to think about for a long time to come. ( )
  BooksForYears | Mar 31, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ali Smithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Emin, TraceyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Far away, in some other category, far away from the snobbery and glitter in which our souls and bodies have been entangled, is forged the instrument of the new dawn.
E M Forster
It is the mark of a narrow world that it mistrusts the undefined.
Joseph Roth.
I am thinking about the difference between history and myth. Or between expression and vision. The need for narrative and the simultaneous need to escape the prison-house of the story - to misquote.
Kathy Acker
Gender ought not to be construed as a stable identity ... rather, gender is an identity tenuously constituted in time.
Judith Butler
Practice only impossibilities.
John Lyly
for Lucy Cuthbertson
for Sarah Wood
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Let me tell you about when I was a girl, our grandfather says.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0676978754, Hardcover)

Another internationally acclaimed writer contributes a fascinating, compelling reinterpretation of a myth that resonates deeply today.

Ligdus and Telethusa are having a child, but they cannot afford to have a girl. Ligdus informs Telethusa that she had better hope for a boy. While this decision makes them both sad, Telethusa “must/obey.” She prays to Isis, but births a girl and names her Iphis, a name that “suited male or female–/a neutral name.” She convinces everyone, including Ligdus, that Iphis is a boy.

Iphis matures and falls in love with another girl, Ianthe, and is engaged for marriage, yet s/he is ruled by the sexual norms of the time: “[P]ossessed by love so strange . . . no female wants/a female!” but “no learned art–can ever make of me/a boy.” She attempts to reconcile her love for Ianthe against the pressures of “nature.” The wedding day is near, Telethusa is desperate, and prays again to Isis. Iphis is transformed, looking like a boy.

Is Ovid suggesting that what we think is nature is attitude? Does Iphis grow a penis? Or does Iphis, adopting the characteristics of a boy, remain a girl married to a girl, undermining traditional values?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:23 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

'Girl Meets Boy' is a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets brand new circumstances? Ali Smith's re-mix of Ovid's most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can't be bottled or sold.

(summary from another edition)

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Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1841958697, 1847670687

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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