Ali Smith, The Baileys, and what lies beneath…

Congratulations to Ali Smith on winning The Baileys with How To Be Both. I recommend the interview with her in The Guardian, illuminating on many fronts. As someone who has just written an essay on form for a forthcoming on-line ‘special’ for New Welsh Review, and whose mind has been deliciously engaged for weeks on storytelling across  genres, I read her thoughts on narrative avidly.

I was particularly struck with a passage about what she coined ‘the not-said’ – the undertow, the subtext, what lies beneath:

‘This seems to me to be what narrative does all the time, beautifully. As we are reading, what really gets us is the undertow: what is not being said. The not-said is so ferocious. lt is important. Which is why Henry James is such a master, because the not-said is always pressing against the surface of the prose, and we can feel it in our skin, we can feel it in our bodies; it is physical, a physical pressure in narrative.’

I love this, her insistence on the corporeality of storytelling, the tangible impact good writing can have on our bodies…. Something we can all aspire to.

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