Saturday, April 01, 2006

Smile - Geraldine McCaughrean

Geraldine McCaughrean's Smile! is a brief yet fascinating book. Flash is a photographer whose plane crashes in the desert. All he carries with him from the crash is an instant camera with ten photos left in it. He is found by two small children who take him to their village where the indigenous people have never seen a camera, a photograph or a photographer before. Flash takes 10 pictures of life in the village from the cow the village has worked hard to buy to the local native art and some of the villages themselves, and in the process learns to re-evaluate his own fast-moving, wealthy life as he learns to see what the villagers value is not necessarily what he values. The book ends with Flash being rescued, but his rescuers suggest that his experiences might have been his fevered imagination working as he tried to recover from the plane crash in which he was quite badly burnt and injured. It's not clear to the reader whether this is true or not, but that matters less than that we learn that our priorities are not necessarily shared by others.

4 comments:

debbie g said...

McCaughrean is just an interesting writer - she seems to be playing with what in litcrit circles would be defined as "postmodern" ontological concerns (see A Pack of Lies, for instance... This one sounds good - I'll have to look for it!

Michele said...

I've read and reviewed A Pack of Lies; it's another excellent book.

"Postmodern ontological concerns" are not words I would use to write about books I've enjoyed ! I try to avoid using LitCrit jargon, because often it's impenetrable to non critics, and this Blog is as much for "lay people" as it is for other critics. (Which is not a criticism of your use of them, just an observation.)

Debbie, you know you can (if you wish) include a Feed for my Blog to your LJ - the Feed's on the front page of my Blog. ?

debbie g said...

Urgh - sorry (smacks herself on head) - I knew you would know what I was talking about, but will respect your editorial wish for clarity! I guess that litcrit swill tends to pop out of my brain because that particular area - "metafiction," or fiction about fiction - and the ideas that McCaughrean explores about fiction and truth interest me a lot. That's vaguely what I was doing my dissertation on, so they are right on the surface (hence, too, my LJ user name "intertext"). *blush* sorry to sound pompous on my first visit!!
Re: syndication - I use a nifty little tool called "Bloglines" for all my non-lj journal reading and for news etc. I also use it for LJ users that I like but haven't yet "friended" - "friending" being rather more than a casual hookup in the LJ world. I have you, Judith Ridge and Roger so far hooked up in there :)

Michele said...

That's OK Debbie - and I didn't mean to imply that you were being pompous - just that those are not terms I feel comfortable in using. I've been writing about literature for 8 years now, and it's nearly always been aimed at a lay audience as much as an academic one - for years I've had a website on First World War literature that's been very popular with non-academics, so I'm used to pitching my writing at a wide audience and that makes me wary of using any kind of "jargon".

But yes, McCaughrean's metafictional narratives are interesting - particularly A Pack of Lies, with its (to me) surprising twist at the end...