While I was reading Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy, I kept playing this track by Antony and the Johnsons in my head:
Ali Smith’s contribution to the Canongate Myths Series is considered one of the highlights of the whole set and although I have only read four of them, I can definitely say that this one is a stunner.
Ali Smith takes the tale of Iphis and Ianthe and places it in a modern setting. A small summary of the myth: Iphis was born a girl but had to live like a boy and eventually fell in love with Ianthe. Ianthe understood that she could not marry a woman (remember this is ancient Greece and written by Ovid) so she asked the gods to change her into a boy, which they did.
Ali Smith take on the myth is the notions of gender. The story focuses on Anthea who falls in love with her schoolmate Robin (gender neutral name) to the dismay of her sister Imogen, who is finding it difficult to accept the fact that Anthea is a lesbian.
Imogen has her own problems as she is working for a bottled water company and she encounters sexism among her colleagues and harassment from her boss. Eventually she is put in a position that questions her ethics and makes her understand gender roles.
For its brief 160 pages, Girl Meets Boy stuffs in a lot of notions. Besides gender and sexism, there’s the environment, memory, eating disorders and media, with a gentle nod to Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. As always Ali Smith makes this so simple and manages to get a great story out of it.
Strangely enough Ali Smith’s myth treatment was written in 2007 and now it is quite fashionable to use big name authors modernise Shakespearean plays, mythology, (ok Angela Carter got Fairy Tales) or even classic tales. Can I say that Girl Meets Boy might have started the revival??