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How to be both: A novel (Paperback)

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A Best Book of the Year: NPR, Financial Times

Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith’s novels are like nothing else. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, How to be both is a novel all about art’s versatility. 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.

About the Author

Ali Smith is the author of many works of fiction, including the novel Hotel World, which was short-listed for both the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize and won the Encore Award and the Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award, and The Accidental, which won the Whitbread Award and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize. Born in Inverness, Scotland, Smith lives in Cambridge, England.

Praise For…

“Playfully brilliant. . . . Delightful. . . . Incredibly touching.” —The Washington Post

“Magnificent. . . . Brilliant and cheeky.” —The Boston Globe 

“[A] sly and shimmering double helix of a novel.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Joyful. . . . Moving. . . .  Encompasses wonderful mothers, unconventional love and friendship, time, mortality, gender, the consolations of art and so much else.” —NPR

“A mystery to be marveled at. . . . Smith is endlessly artful, creating a work that feels infinite in its scope and intimate at the same time.” —The Atlantic

“Ali Smith is a genius. . . . [How to be both] cements Smith’s reputation as one of the finest and most innovative of our contemporary writers. By some divine alchemy, she is both funny and moving; she combines intellectual rigor with whimsy.” —The Los Angeles Review of Books

“Captivating. . . . How to be both indeed works both ways, demonstrating not only the power of art itself but also the mastery of Smith’s prose.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A synthesis of questions long contemplated by an extraordinarily thoughtful author, who succeeds quite well in implanting those questions into well-drawn, memorable people.” —The New York Times

“Innovative. . . . The book’s high-concept design is offset by the beauty, prowess, and range of Smith’s playfully confident, proudly unconventional prose.” —Elle

“Deft and mischievous, a novel of ideas that folds back on itself like the most playful sort of arabesque.” —Los Angeles Times

“Ali Smith’s signature themes—of the fluidity of identity and gender, appearance and perception—are here in profusion, as is her joyful command of language, from lofty rhetoric to earthy pun.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Ali Smith is a master storyteller, and How to be both is a charming and erudite novel that can quite literally make us rethink the way we read.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer

“An entirely delightful and moving story. . . . When you reach the end of this playful and wise novel, you want to turn to the beginning and read it again to piece together its mysteries and keep both halves simultaneously in mind.” —The Dallas Morning News

“A wonderfully slippery, postmodern examination of the perception, gender, loss and the lasting power of art. . . . The sort of book you could happily read a second time and uncover overlooked truths. In art as finely crafted as this, there’s always more to see, if you look.” —The Miami Herald

“Boundless. . . . Exhilarating. . . . Smith’s concerns—in subject matter and form—are profound and encompassing, and it is beautiful to watch her books defy pinning down.” —Portland Oregonian

“An inventive and intriguing look into the world of art, love, choices, and the duality of the human existence. . . . Even though Smith is writing two very different stories from two different eras, she does a masterful job of weaving connecting threads between the two.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Wildly inventive. . . . The narrative voice makes the double-take cohesive, as both are lyrical and fresh. . . . I absolutely adored this book.” —Laura Creste, Bustle

“Smith’s talent shines brightest in her tender depiction of the emotions that, like the underpaintings in a fresco, remain hidden but have a powerful impact.” —BookPage

Product Details
ISBN: 9780307275257
ISBN-10: 0307275256
Publisher: Anchor
Publication Date: October 13th, 2015
Pages: 336
Language: English

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Staff Picks

A rich, deeply memorable debut from Aussie Charlotte McConaghy, Migrations tells multiple stories of a young woman, the Arctic Tern species and the slowly changed world without birds, fish and most other animals. Weaving in and out of Franny’s life is her complicated past life, her unorthodox marriage to ornithologist Niall and her constant self-doubt possibly bordering on madness. Set in Ireland, the Arctic and in the grand oceans of the world, the soothing calm, the violent storms and the vastness of the earth’s water ways also act as characters in this unforgettable, lyrical and beautifully crafted story. Be ready to stay with the book’s characters well beyond the final sentence. Stunning!