cover image The First Person and Other Stories

The First Person and Other Stories

Ali Smith, . . Pantheon, $23.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-307-37771-5

Smith handily proves the truism that everyone has their own tale to tell in this bangup collection. From “The History of History,” where a young narrator focuses on the fashion-related aspects of the beheading of Mary, queen of Scots, to block out problems at home, to “Writ,” where a grown woman sits down for an involved chat with her 14-year-old self, the author takes readers on lyrical rides through the lives of everyday Britons. “The Child” begins with an ordinary situation—a trip to the grocery—and shoots into fantasy when an infant begins telling crass jokes. Others, such as “I Know Something You Don’t Know,” explore heartbreaking reality, in this case a desperate mother turning to phone-book healers and psychics to cure her son’s illness. And in the title story, the narrator weighs her fears of being in a relationship against her apprehension at being alone. At once quirky and compulsively readable, this collection puts a layered and enjoyable spin on the many forms of the short story. (Jan.)