Archive for the ‘Comedy of Manners’ Category

Ali Smith, There But For The (2011)

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Just finished reading Ali Smith’s 2011 novel, There But For The.  I enjoyed it.  By the time I got to the last fifteen pages, I found it hard to put down.

This is truly a non-conventional narrative.   It is organized into a prefatory vignette and four major sections named There, But, For, and The.   There is a cast of characters, all guests at a dinner party.  The central character of each section is one of those guests, but the reader doesn’t know how the pieces are going to fit together.

Each section illuminates a particular character and all of them illuminate the “fifth business” character–the catalyst and anchor point of the story–a man who, midway through the party excuses himself (presumably to answer the call of nature), goes upstairs, and locks himself into the spare bedroom.

I was going to say that the book is satirical, but really it is more a comedy of manners–at least to the extent that the characters are treated kindly and their foibles presented with a smile rather than a frown or a smirk.  But the explorations of characters and relationships are serious, thoughtful, and insightful.

At the end of the book, as I was mentally fitting all the pieces into place, I looked back and felt satisfied.  My wife, on the other hand, found the structure annoying and didn’t finish the book.  Worth a look, anyway.