cover image Girl Meets Boy

Girl Meets Boy

Ali Smith, . . Canongate, $18 (164pp) ISBN 978-1-84767-019-9

Veteran British novelist Smith returns from 2006's Whitbread Award–winner The Accidental with a cheerful, sexy, disorienting take on the gender-shifting myths of Iphis (as told in Ovid's Metamorphoses ). Fragile, rootless Anthea arrives at the Inverness, Scotland, offices of the slick, multibrand corporate behemoth Pure, where her up-and-coming sister Midge has gotten her a job. Raised on their grandfather's strange stories of rebellion and gender switching, the sisters undergo very different transformations when confronting “Pure oblivion,” the corporation's goal of being simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. Drifting at work, Anthea meets kilt-clad graffiti artist Robin, who awakens destructive passions within her. Midge, meanwhile, is summoned to Pure's London headquarters by Keith, the charismatic “boss of bosses,” and her meeting with him sets her on an unexpected course with the company. Smith's spare and sharp lyricism makes the action secondary, but the ironies that arise from the corporate setting for a very old myth are handled with glee (including jabs at water supply privatization), and Smith's cadences, which read like classical drama, carry the novel along beautifully. (Jan.)