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Girl Meets Boy (Myths) by Ali Smith

Girl Meets Boy (Myths) (edition 2008)

by Ali Smith

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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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Ali Smith retells, or re-imagines, the Iphis and Ianthe tale from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, locating it in contemporary Inverness, Scotland. She breathes new life into the myth by allowing Iphis to retain his/her female nature. For Smith, there is no need for the gods to rescue this“Iphis” from the humiliation she will bring upon herself, her betrothed, and her whole village. Unlike Ovid, Smith is willing to embrace the original pairing, suitably placing it in a spectrum of pairings across this brief novel.

Anthea and Imogen, sisters from a broken home, found solace in their weekly visits to their grandparents. Their grandfather, a former acrobat with a vivid imagination and the art of tale telling, frequently teases them by claiming to have once been a girl. But then his tales are equally fanciful, or at least that is what the older sister and life-bitten realist, Imogen, thinks. Anthea, embarrassed by having been named after a television hostess, is young enough to simply let the tales embrace her. After their abandonment by their mother, it is seven year old Imogen who fills the breach. Inevitably this puts a distance between the two that only time, and their better understanding of who each of them is, can bridge.

The story then shifts to Anthea and Imogen as adults. Imogen is a “Creative”, working for a company that bottles and sells Scottish water. Although she has an outlet through her creative marketing contributions, Imogen is otherwise constricted in thought and action and emotion. When she arranges for Anthea to join the firm, she has no idea that it will trigger a cascade of events. Anthea will turn everything around. Mostly herself, or rather her sexual orientation, but this primarily through standing still and being open to the wonder that is Robin, a beautiful young activist. Imogen will change as well, though it is a moot point whether she changes more or less than her sister.

The writing here is inventive and fresh. Both sisters have very clear and differing voices. But the language of both jumps up an octave when they, separately, fall in love. Love, it turns out, is the true driving force here. Smith pours liquid joy into their reactions to their beloveds. Of course this is merely a brief tale, but it reads beautifully and stands well on its own. Recommended. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Dec 24, 2014 |
In Greek myth, Iphis was born a girl, but raised as a boy to protect her from her father’s wrath. After coming of age and becoming engaged to the beautiful Ianthe, Iphis and her mother pray to the goddess Isis, who transforms Iphis into a boy in time for the wedding.

Scottish novelist Ali Smith has created a prickly, exuberant novella that brings the Iphis myth into the modern age with abundant humor and breathtaking sexuality. It’s 150 pages and it packs an emotional wallop all out of proportion with its size: I challenge anyone to read it and not feel utterly joyous and exhilarated. ( )
  circumspice | May 7, 2013 |
A lovely read that is well written and an interesting read.
Set in Inverness, the story is of two sisters in their late teens/early 20s growing up and finding love.
The voices in the novel vary between Imogen and Anthea. At the beginning they both work for Pure, a corporate giant that wants to sell bottled water to the world and is full of corporate speak. Anthea is clearly not happy working within corporate constraints, Imogen seems to love it. However, the novel allows them both to see the brutality of being a woman in a corporate culture and gives them both the opportunity to break free.
It shouldn't be difficult to write a feminist novel and not seem like you are preaching and Ali Smith has certainly managed this. Her treatment of corporate culture is little more clumsy, but no less enjoyable to read.
There were times when I got irritated with the repetition in the novel; for example, in such a short novel to have a page and a half of words and phrases to describe getting married seemed extravagant; the joy of the union came across, but could have been achieved with less words. ( )
  Tifi | Dec 13, 2012 |
This was a lovely little novella in which Ovid's story of Iphis and Ianthe plays a part. There's also stories told within a family, sisters who don't really get one another, annoying jobs and friends, and falling in love. ( )
  mari_reads | Mar 3, 2012 |
Sisters Imogen and Anthea both work for Pure, a Scottish bottled water corporation. While Imogen anxiously competes with her male co-workers on the creative team, Anthea would prefer to be anywhere else. Leaving work early one day, Anthea encounters the most beautiful boy she has ever seen . . . writing socially conscious graffiti on Pure property. Only it isn't a boy. And Anthea is smitten.

Told in alternating voices, Girl Meets Boy details Anthea falling in love and finding herself while Imogen dithers over learning that her sister is "one of them" and fears that others at Pure will find out. In the end, Imogen, too, learns something about herself and the importance of staying true to that self.

Smith is having so much fun retelling the myth of Iphis that she manages to sneak in some feminisit and anti-corporate diatribe without it feeling overly heavy-handed. I've had mixed reactions to her 'experimental' style (loved it in There but for the and The Accidental, found it more overbearing in Hotel World and elsewhere). Here, where she is dealing with her characters' inner thoughts and immediate reactions, it works much better. Overall, a fast and fairly enjoyable read. ( )
1 vote Cariola | Jan 15, 2012 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:45 -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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