Tuesday, 29 July 2014

ruling passion; ali smith

I don't often remember my dreams; if I do, it's usually just a fragment, but itcan really stick with me through the day.

Last night I finished reading Ruling Passion by Reginald Hill, the third Dalziel and Pascoe detective novel. I'd got the first six in a cheap set from The Book People, based on some recommendations of the series, but I'd been quite disappointed with the first two (A Clubbable Woman and An Advancement of Learning); I might not have stuck with them much further, or at least made much of an effort to seek more out, but this third one I found to be much better.

At bedtime, then, I was wondering which novel to read next off my shelves; I browsed a bit, but made no decision.

In the night I dreamt about Ali Smith, so in the morning I picked up Hotel World off the shelf and started that. I read Like a long time ago, I bought it new when it came out. I've had Hotel World and Other Stories & Other Stories on the shelf for a while.

The fragmentary scene I remember, which was perhaps from just before I woke up, was that I wanted to introduce Ali to Fiona and other friends in the Morris Folk Choir - I think Fiona was sitting beside her - but Ali was drunk and asleep.

I knew Ali a tiny bit at university. Her last year was my first year, and we were in the creative writing group together. Probably the high water mark of my literary career will prove to be having poems in the same publication as Ali, the creative writing group's issue of its magazine, Scratchings, for that year. When I was home last year I took back down, among some other things, the copies of Scratchings which I had, including that one.

I wrote to her a couple of times after she left university, and got replies. Once while I was still in Aberdeen and she was in Cambridge, I think, after having gone to see her play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; and once after I'd read Like, her first published novel, which was when I was in Elephant & Castle, and which I sent care of her publisher.

I'd always had a certainty that she would get published. I would regularly look in the relevant place in the bookshop shelves to see if she'd appeared there yet. And eventually she did. I saw her once some years after that, across the bookshop in the South Bank Centre - I think it was a Books Etc then - but I was with my mum so didn't go over.

She was very kind to the younger me, and I have fond memories of her.