Ah, so many books, so many plans. I wish you all a 2014 full of curiosity and wonder, fueled by good reading.
the book is full of one marvelous essay after another - about her poor father's drinking, about her mother and aunt fishing, about a terrible event Beard experienced while working at the University of Iowa. Why should I care about this stranger's life, you may ask? But her sentences lend the boredom, deep pleasures, longings, and misgivings of ordinary life true grace. She fashions sentences so deft you want to live in them.
The trouble is that Nora needs others to tell her who she is. She is not willing to reject their formulas, and that makes her angry as hell. She's believed all this time that she's been mildly disappointed, but it takes meeting the Shahid family, particularly Sirena - a visual artist - someone seemingly free of these demands, to find out she's actually furious.
Artful is a masterpiece of integrity, and I mean that in all senses of the word. Artful does not seem that it could be added to or subtracted from. It is consistent in its methods - its form (the subject, in fact, of its second chapter). It is difficult while inside the whole to question these methods. Smith's narrator tells us she is mourning a lover. Even as I am aware that Smith has created a narrative with craft and ingenuity, I believe that this must be true about Smith herself. Finally, as Merriam Webster would have it, Artful is incorruptible. What I mean is that it brings its diverse pieces together so successfully that, well I was going to say that I am not aware of them, but that is not true. When I stop to consider the components of this book - form and content, reading and writing, painting and film, artist and art, lover and loved, mourner and mourned - my appreciation of the whole doesn't pause. To consider the parts is to consider the whole.