There but for The: A Novel by Ali Smith

There but for The: A Novel by Ali Smith

Author:Ali Smith [Smith, Ali]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Fiction, Literary
ISBN: 9780307379986
Google: Ab_-nQEACAAJ
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published: 2011-09-13T20:54:37+00:00

The song gives him an erection and then, when he takes himself in hand, a coming-of-age every bit as beautiful as the one he had in the park. He knows now what it means, to be bigger than yourself. Greenwich! England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty! The world is a bloodrush of rough harmony. Then it’s over; the song, abrupt, dies away, fades to the noise of the needle on vinyl and it’s gone. But he can lean over and do the thing with the mechanical arm so that the record will play over and over, on repeat, until you choose to stop, and you could even be dead and it would go on playing and playing.

Consider the fabric of things the vast / dustbin of detail who knows what will last / nothing left but rough wool skin moment touch / who knew so little would become so much Mark sat in the park. It is more than fifty years ago. He and his mother are making a dash through London on a day when the rain makes the pavements greyer, the wind makes the litter more littery, a rough spring day. His mother’s sleeve on her tweed dogtooth coat, the one with the big lapels, is turned back on itself at the cuff and the rough cuff is rubbing his wrist as they hurry along. The wisps of her hair beyond her hat are wet, pretty in the rain. She is telling him things as they walk-run, turning to tell him things even on the move and when they pass men the men turn their heads and look at her. Mark is proud. She is clever and quick, she is beautiful, his mother, she is like a bird both clipped and winged, and when she passes people notice, and when she laughs out loud in the street people stop and stare.

It’s genius, old man, she says hauling him along and reeling off, like magic spilling behind her, like that dancer Isadora’s scarves that streamed behind and caught in the wheel and killed her, rhymes by one of her favourites, he rhymes sour with Schopenhauer, Freud with avoid, salmon with backgammon, civil with drivel, yes-men with chessmen, solemn with spinal column, Irving Berlin with pounding on tin, he rhymes word with absurd, and hurled with world. Now Porter has wit, but is shifty, a little seamy, I know, and I couldn’t not love him for it, Mark. But Ira, he’s kind, he’s always kind, and for genius to be kind takes a special sort of genius in itself, Mark old man, come on, we’re late (they were always, she was always, gloriously, just a little late, it made everything worth hurrying for), and his brother dead, imagine, he must feel like half a person, imagine it, try, him still in the world and his other half, the tune half, gone so young, only a bit older than me, and I know you think I’m old, but I’m not old, old man.


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