GIRL MEETS BOY by Ali Smith (Knopf), 161 pages. $25 cloth. Rating: NNNN
I just can’t say goodbye to pride, so let me keep the vibe alive by flagging Ali Smith’s delicious little quickie.
As part of a series called The Myths, Girl Meets Boy reworks the Iphis story handed down to us by Ovid in which a girl, brought up as a boy in an anti-?female world, falls in love with a girl. The gods are kind, turn her into a real boy, and the couple live happily ever after.
Smith turns the myth on its head. Here Anthea falls in love with a female kilted graffiti artist while she and her sister Midge are working for a diabolical water-bottling company. No one needs a gender transformation; queer love conquers all.
In four chapters simply titled I, You, Us, Them and with clear, pointed prose, Smith foregrounds Anthea’s glorious coming out and Midge’s flip-?out over her sister’s sexual turnaround against a backdrop of the girls’ family history and the experience of working for capitalist pirates of the world’s water.
Two sections are particularly powerful. In one, Keith, head honcho of water company Pure, describes his fantasy universe, in which Pure has a piece of every product and energy source needed by every person on the planet. Smith acknowledges our own Maude Barlow as inspiration (specifically her book Blue Gold), but the terrifying prose is all Smith’s.
And a brief section in which Anthea discovers the pleasures of lesbian love is hot hot hot. It’s better than just about anything I’ve read in those cheesy dyke erotica anthologies. If you’re the type who likes to skim until you get to the sexy part, go ahead.
But as it is, Smith’s story is brief and beautiful. Every word counts.