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Tony Grist

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The Accidental: Ali Smith [Sep. 29th, 2013|02:17 pm]
Tony Grist
It's almost a genre, but maybe not quite. A mysterious stranger comes to town and transforms every life he or she touches. Works in this almost-a-genre range from Mary Poppins to Brimstone and Treacle, from An Inspector Calls to Teorema. A number of westerns- including several Clint Eastwood westerns- qualify. In Smith's treatment of the theme the angel is an ageing hippie chick and the people she turns over are a middle-class family on holiday in Norfolk. I liked the 12 year old daughter best- Smith does a grand job of getting inside her head- and the womanizing husband least- she makes him awfully soft- and has him think in verse- which is something no novelist should ever attempt. You want to lose your readers? Try tossing them a sonnet.

[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-09-30 08:09 am (UTC)
I don't think the stranger has to be supernatural. Smith's stranger is explicable in other terms (she may just be a con-artist). One of examples I've been thinking of is Shane- where the stranger has unusual powers (fast on the draw etc) but they're not supernatural.

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[User Picture]From: negothick
2013-10-02 10:10 pm (UTC)
The mythological versions of that visiting stranger (could be Odin, could be Loki, could be the angels that visited Abraham, could be the semi-divine Orpheus) invests even the most realistic films and novels you cite with a numinous quality. Professor Harold Hill--or his twin, the con-man hero of the play (and film) The Rainmaker have trickster ancestry for sure.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-10-03 08:54 pm (UTC)
Yes, you're right.

I'm thinking of Magwitch ambushing Pip in the churchyard- and how Pip sees him as some kind of an ogre.
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