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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

Review: Public Library and Other Stories

Public Library and Other Stories - Ali Smith

Aside from this collection, the only work of Ali Smith's I've read is a novel, How to be both. With so little knowledge of the author, it may be premature for me to make assumptions about her writing, but I think it's safe to say that Smith is a very talented writer who speaks in thunderous whispers. What I mean by that is that her stories are decorated in gorgeous language, yet they're unassuming. They are often peopled by strong characters experiencing some small personal growth. There may not be much in the way of story. And while the stories may be affecting, they are not necessarily the most memorable.

It can be difficult to make strong opinions about this style of writing. Many of us belong to a society that is far too fast paced for such stories. While part of me wants to celebrate everything Smith and her ilk write, I must acknowledge that sometimes the stories may be a bit too unassuming. In her latest collection, Smith pairs her stories with brief reflections on public libraries. For the most part, the stories have little to do with libraries, though some touch momentarily on research or reading. Though a couple of the stories appealed to me, the strongest moments come from the library vignettes. These little reflections are often poignant. Overall, the collection has a nice rhythm and certainly captures the beauty of language, but it doesn't possess enough substance or heart as a whole to motivate a more enthusiastic response from me. Public Library and Other Stories aside, I do look forward to reading more of Smith's writing.