by Alexis M. Smith


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781935639206
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication date: 01/17/2012
Series: A Tin House New Voice
Pages: 112
Sales rank: 1,288,009
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Alexis M. Smith grew up in Soldotna, Alaska, and Seattle, Washington. She received an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. She has written for Tarpaulin Sky and She has a son and two cats, and they all live together in a little apartment in Portland, Oregon.


A Conversation with Alexis Smith
How long have you been working on Glaciers? Do you remember how it began? How has it evolved from the beginning?
I have been working on Glaciers for the last five years, with some breaks. It began as a series of prose poems about my childhood in Alaska. I was in my second or third semester of the MFA in Writing program at Goddard College. During the winter residencies I would fly out to Vermont from Portland for a week of true winter. Walking through the snowy woods to the library, listening to the creaking trees and feeling the cold on my face, really brought me back to being a kid on my grandparents' homestead outside Kenai.
The story has evolved a lot. When I started writing I was a footloose twenty-something bookseller, and now I'm a homebody thirty-something single mom. In the early days of writing, there was so much more angst--mine and Isabel's. The first year as a mother knocked the impulse to navel-gaze right out of me. My focus, and Isabel's, turned outward, to other people's stories.
Many writers have a few practice novels in the drawer. Is this your first novel?
No other novels in the drawer--just drafts of this one. This was my practice novel, in many ways. I learned so much about writing and being a writer from this book. Practical things like, how to write at the laundromat (and other unlikely places), and how to trick your brain into forgetting the internet (key: keep a big dictionary handy). And, other things, too--structural and stylistic and thematic things--but the most important thing being that writing a novel is more about getting shit done than about being a certain kind of thoughtful, articulate, creative person.
Why did you choose to have the novel take place over only one day? What benefits do you have as a writer with this structure?
I'll admit to being a big fan of Mrs. Dalloway, so that was a huge influence. I love how Virginia Woolf uses the present as a point of reference for the past. In a diurnal narrative, the point of reference is pretty static. Not much changes in the characters' lives in the course of a day, so it's an interesting way to examine memories and how they play in the background of daily life, informing relationships and feeding desires. There may not be room for big drama, but there's plenty of room for the smaller details that get lost in multi-generational sagas.
Tell us about the title? How does the environment figure into this book?
My generation came of age at the same time as the idea of global warming. We entered adulthood almost simultaneously with the passing of the Kyoto Protocol by the United Nations. For me, having grown up in spitting distance of actual glaciers, the idea of glaciers disappearing was shocking. Glaciers seemed like living things, to me: they grow each year, or at least did for millennia; they move and have their own inertia; they are record keepers, time capsules; and they have shaped the earth's surface over time.
All of those things can also be said for human beings. Human populations moving over the planet, over centuries, have shaped the earth with cities and infrastructure, mining, etc. We move where the resources and food are, carrying things with us, leaving other things behind. The glaciers had their day in shaping the planet, and now we are having ours. It just so happens that all of these cycles eventually come to an end, and ours is of our own making. Isabel is reckoning with the intersection of those stories: the smaller human stories (loves, losses, change), and the bigger historical and environmental stories (wars, natural disasters).
I was worried for a long time that the title was too oblique, that it would come off as pretentious--or worse, too sober--for a story about a girl who really just wants to find the perfect dress and win the love of her work crush. But, somehow, it always felt like the only title that would do.
Who have you discovered lately?
Easy: Sarah Goldstein, whose first book, Fables, came out this year from Tarpaulin Sky Press. It is a gorgeous, haunting book along the lines of Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's Madeleine is Sleeping: brief, evocative chapters that go strange, dark places and occasionally leave you stunned. Fans of Kelly Link and Karen Russell would love Fables as well. Though, honestly, Goldstein immediately reminded me of the French poet, Liliane Giraudon (her out-of-print Sun & Moon Classics collection, Fur, is worth seeking out) who is a master of the uncanny modern fairy tale.

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Glaciers 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
DavidAbrams More than 1 year ago
Sometimes you find the book, and sometimes the book finds you. This was the case for me when, earlier this year, I walked into the Barnes and Noble in Bozeman, Montana "just to get a latte" (i.e., I wasn't on a typical book-buying mission). I was walking toward the cafe when it happened: Glaciers found me. It was like one of those "meet cute" scenes in movies when the pretty brunette dogwalker and the distracted guy with the briefcase, walking in opposite directions, round a corner at the same time and he ends up tangled in leashes and tails and she knocks the briefcase out of his hand, spilling papers all over the sidewalk. That's how it was for me with Alexis M. Smith's slim, pretty novel. A chance encounter. A walking past, then a double-take and a doubling-back. A glance at the cover. A skim of the plot summary, blurbs and first sentence ("Isabel often thinks of Amsterdam, though she has never been there, and probably will never go."). An eye-poke of interest. An impulse buy. It was the best thing I bought all year (and that includes the 2011 GMC Acadia my wife and I just purchased). The novel chronicles one day in the life of Isabel, a twenty-eight-year-old library worker, as she repairs damaged books, prepares for a party, and pines for a co-worker, an Iraq War veteran named "Spoke." As a single woman living in Portland, Oregon, Isabel haunts thrift stores and collects second-hand items like postcards, teacups, aprons, dresses--the cast-off remnants which were once new, happy purchases by someone decades earlier. "She feels a need to care for them that goes beyond an enduring aesthetic appreciation," Smith writes. "She loves them like adopted children." It's fitting that Isabel collects scraps of the past because she is a character who lives primarily in memory. The book slips seamlessly between the present and Isabel's childhood growing up in Alaska and Portland with her mother, father and sister Agnes. Written in sentences as simple and delicate and beautiful as a single strand of a spider's silk, Glaciers reads like a literal dream. We move through the pages quickly, as if floating just above the words, and it's over before we want it to be. I could have stayed in Isabel's world for a long, long time. Glaciers is easily one of the best books I've read this year. It's beautifully packaged by Tin House Books--French flaps, deckle-edge pages, generous white space around the text--and even more gorgeous, chapter by chapter, sentence after sentence, word to word.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. Love it!
sarah-e on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a good book. The story wanders between the main character's past and present. It reads more like a short story than a novel, which I liked for the scope of the plot.
JackieBlem on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a very interesting debut novel told in short vignettes. The main character is twenty-something woman whose life story is played out in a single day for the reader through her memories, her encounters, what she observes, what she wishes. It is a quiet story told with great understatement and a fluid way with words, but with astonishingly deep meaning floating in the gentle episodes. It's difficult to describe, but a pleasure to read. Give it a chance.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Isabel loves vintage clothing, old things and works in the basement of a library repairing damaged books. This is not a big splashy novel but rather a quiet, reflective one looking at one day in a life, a sort novel to read and just savor the wonderful prose. Looking forward to seeing what this author does next.
TheTwoDs on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Offering love and longing amongst the hipster scene in Portland, Oregon, Glaciers unfolds languidly over the course of a day as Isabel, the quiet, quirky library technician (who specializes in repairing books) decides what to wear to a party and whether or not to invite the IT tech who works across the hall from her. Beautifully detailed reminiscences of Isabel's childhood in Alaska are interspersed with stream-of-consciousness idle angst as Isabel's mind considers various unrelated thoughts throughout the day. In a way, it reminded me of later period DeLillo, particularly The Body Artist - the protagonists often contemplate things that seem mundane to most, but in their observations their own stories are told by what they notice and fail to see. This is a promising debut that will offer pleasures the reader may not realize at first, but, in retrospect, will find a kernel in their memory and fertilize it into something richer.
ken1952 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A beautifully written novel about love and loss; about perserving the past and considering the future. This is the sort of book you can sit down with and thoroughly enjoy. Take time to read sections aloud to enjoy the rhythm of the language. Holding this delicate book in your hands instead of reading it on your e-reader is a must!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Writing..... Simple Story line..... Happy summer read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What am I missing here? So many five stars? I found this book totally B-O-R-I-N-G and it lacked the punch I expected.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Cut it out!" She snaps. She dissapeers and is transported to arctic result 1.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can i join i am a white she cat with green eyes i need a mentor
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please Nooooo
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He layed down in the dying sunlight
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not going to be on this week sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Icystr~she gives the kit she just treated to ferntail. Ferntail nodded to foxleap. Lavakit if its a she and firekit if its a tom....we already have a flamekit.
hfineisen More than 1 year ago
Isabel is a single, twentysomething thrift-store shopper and collector of remnants, things cast off or left behind by others. Glaciers follows Isabel through a day in her life in which work with damaged books in the basement of a library, unrequited love for the former soldier who fixes her computer, and dreams of the perfect vintage dress move over a backdrop of deteriorating urban architecture and the imminent loss of the glaciers she knew as a young girl in Alaska. Glaciers unfolds internally, the action shaped by Isabel’s sense of history, memory, and place, recalling the work of writers such as Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, and Virginia Woolf. For Isabel, the fleeting moments of one day can reveal an entire life. While she contemplates loss and the intricate fissures it creates in our lives, she accumulates the stories—the remnants—of those around her and she begins to tell her own story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can you be the ancestor pack?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
huckfinn37 More than 1 year ago
The book was okay. The characters were unlikable. The story was quirky. The premise was interesting because it dealt with icebergs, libraries, and unrequitted love. However, the plot fell a bit flat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago