How To Be Both

Paperback | June 23, 2015

byAli Smith

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The dazzling new novel about art by the Man Booker- and Orange Prize-shortlisted author of The Accidental
     Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive, and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith's novels are like nothing else.
      How to be both is a novel all about art's versatility. Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it's a fast-moving, genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths, and fictions. There's a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There's the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real--and all life's givens get given a second chance.

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From the Publisher

The dazzling new novel about art by the Man Booker- and Orange Prize-shortlisted author of The Accidental      Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive, and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith's novels are like nothing else.      How to be both is a novel all about art's versatility. Borrowing from painting's fresco technique to make a...

ALI SMITH is the author of Artful, There but for the, Free Love, Like, Hotel World, Other Stories and Other Stories, The Whole Story and Other Stories, The Accidental, Girl Meets Boy, and The First Person and Other Stories. Hotel World was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize and The Accidental was shortlisted for the ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:384 pages, 8.22 × 5.24 × 1 inPublished:June 23, 2015Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143192760

ISBN - 13:9780143192763

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Customer Reviews of How To Be Both

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from a masterpiece!!! Ali Smith's masterpiece is published in two different editions. Some readers would get the 'eyes' section first and the 'camera' section in second position. In my case, it was the other way around. The 'camera' section depicts the life of teenaged George who has lost her mother and who tries to figure out her father's attitude, her little brother's loneliness and her own pain. In unforgettable flashbacks, we see the family's visit to an Italian palazzo just to admire the frescoes done by the not-so-famous Francesco del Cossa. They had previously seen them at home in the computer, but her academis mother takes them to admire the frescoes for their unique beauty. The dialogues between mother and daughter are superb, dissecting each others' ideas regarding art: 'Do things just go away?' ' Do things that happened not exist, or stop existing just because we can't see them happening in front of us?' Even the image in the cover of the book has a connecting with the plot and its themes, appearing on George's walls alongside del Cossa's printed-version frescoes. The second section 'eyes' displays the life of Francesco del Cossa in the fifteenth century, who is the painter of the frescoes in the palazzo George and her mother visit in Italy. We see his love for his mother, the decision his father takes regarding his future, his learning how to use colours and how to create them. However, Smith has a surprise for us readers as not everything is as it seems. 'How to be both' has been described as 'playful, tender, unforgettable' by the Guardian. I believe it ro be exquisite beyong measure. Regardless the edition you get, you know you have in your hands the work of a true artist.
Date published: 2016-07-27

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Consider this moral conundrum for a moment, George’s mother says to George who’s sitting in the front passenger seat.   Not says. Said.    George’s mother is dead.   What moral conundrum? George says.   The passenger seat in the hire car is strange, being on the side the driver’s seat is on at home. This must be a bit like driving is, except without the actual, you know, driving.   Okay. You’re an artist, her mother says.   Am I? George says. Since when? And is that a moral conundrum?    Ha ha, her mother says. Humour me. Imagine it. You’re an artist.   This conversation is happening last May, when George’s mother is still alive, obviously. She’s been dead since September. Now it’s January, to be more precise it’s just past midnight on New Year’s Eve, which means it has just become the year after the year in which George’s mother died.   George’s father is out. It is better than him being at home, standing maudlin in the kitchen or going round the house switching things off and on. Henry is asleep. She just went in and checked on him; he was dead to the world, though not as dead as the word dead literally means when it means, you know, dead.   This will be the first year her mother hasn’t been alive since the year her mother was born. That is so obvious that it is stupid even to think it and yet so terrible that you can’t not think it. Both at once.   Anyway George is spending the first minutes of the new year looking up the lyrics of an old song. Let’s Twist Again. Lyrics by Kal Mann. The words are pretty bad. Let’s twist again like we did last summer. Let’s twist again like we did last year. Then there’s a really bad rhyme, a rhyme that isn’t, properly speaking, even a rhyme.   Do you remember when Things were really hummin’.    Hummin’ doesn’t rhyme with summer, the line doesn’t end in a question mark, and is it meant to mean, literally, do you remember that time when things smelt really bad?    Then Let’s twist again, twisting time is here. Or, as all the sites say, twistin’ time.    At least they’ve used an apostrophe, the George from before her mother died says.    I do not give a fuck about whether some site on the internet attends to grammatical correctness, the George from after says.   That before and after thing is about mourning, is what people keep saying. They keep talking about how grief has stages. There’s some dispute about how many stages of grief there are. There are three, or five, or some people say seven.    It’s quite like the songwriter actually couldn’t be bothered to think of words. Maybe he was in one of the three, five or seven stages of mourning too. Stage nine (or twenty three or a hundred and twenty three or ad infinitum, because nothing will ever not be like this again): in this stage you will no longer be bothered with whether songwords mean anything. In fact you will hate almost all songs.   But George has to find a song to which you can do this specific dance.   It being so apparently contradictory and meaningless is no doubt a bonus. It will be precisely why the song sold so many copies and was such a big deal at the time. People like things not to be too meaningful.   Okay, I’m imagining, George in the passenger seat last May in Italy says at exactly the same time as George at home in England the following January stares at the meaninglessness of the words of an old song. Outside the car window Italy unfurls round and over them so hot and yellow it looks like it’s been sandblasted. In the back Henry snuffles lightly, his eyes closed, his mouth open. The band of the seatbelt is over his forehead because he is so small.   You’re an artist, her mother says, and you’re working on a project with a lot of other artists. And everybody on the project is getting the same amount, salary-wise. But you believe that what you’re doing is worth more than everyone on the project, including you, is getting paid. So you write a letter to the man who’s commissioned the work and you ask him to give you more money than everyone else is getting.   Am I worth more? George says. Am I better than the other artists?   Does that matter? her mother says. Is that what matters?   Is it me or is it the work that’s worth more? George says.   Good. Keep going, her mother says.   Is this real? George says. Is it hypothetical?   Does that matter? her mother says.

Editorial Reviews

"Smith subtly but surely reinvents the novel ... How to be both brims with palpable joy, not only at language, literature and art's transformative power but at the messy business of being human, of wanting to be more than one kind of person at once." The Telegraph

"Endlessly artful, creating a work that feels infinite in its scope and intimate at the same time." The Atlantic

"Playfully brilliant." The Washington Post