Book Review

Thread Ripper by Amalie Smith

a gorgeous book

After several weeks (a month, ouch) of reading pretty much nothing except for poetry, a novel-slash-creative-non-fiction (CNF) hybrid(ish) was exactly what I needed to recover.

I selected this, Thread Ripper by Amalie Smith (a 2021 translation by Jennifer Russell of a 2019 Danish text), which is published by Lolli Editions as part of their new Scandinavian writing series.

Lolli Editions isn’t a publisher who I’ve consciously encountered before, as they were launched during my [ultimately pointless] three and a half, no, four years of not living in the UK, so I guess I’ve missed them until this, which is a shame and very much my loss, as this beautifully-presented text is exactly the kind of thing I love, and if I ever get myself a job and thus disposable income again, I will definitely be getting more from (all of?) Lolli’s back catalogue. (Lolli Editions team: if you’re reading this and want to send me a review copy I’m always open to free books and happy to share this email address for ease of communication!!!)

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Thread Ripper is a hybrid mix of texts, with a non-standard pagination system, whereby every pair of facing pages is numbered the same.

Each side uses different fonts and every page terminates at the end of a sentence and/or paragraph;

narrative/meaning of sections often overflow the page, and do not align with each other. Initially, the differences between the text on the left hand side of the page and text on the right hand side are very clear, but as the text goes on, narrative threads begin to appear and weave through both.

The text is about a textile designer who is looking at machine learning technologies to design a conceptual textile piece, which is a big commission in the artist’s career, and necessitates lots of travel back and forth to the textile factory, as well as the need for peaceful and private space in order to work on creative pursuits, which puts strain on the narrator’s relationship with her partner, William.

Weaving together the mythology of Penelope from The Odyssey (the one who famously wove then unwove the same fabric over the course of many years, when she could have just spent those hot Greek nights banging [at least some of] the guys who wanted to marry her – they couldn’t have all been unfuckable), as well as the personal and career history of Ada Lovelace, one of the pioneering thinkers and mathematicians involved in the pre-digital creation of algorithms and computational devices, which were initially used for – and then expanded from – automated, mechanised, fabric/textile production facilities.

So, this beautifully-presented text (I cannot overstate how breathtaking the book-as-object design and production is here) includes:

  • excerpts from an AI approximation of Ada Lovelace’s letters;
  • discussion of artificial intelligence, mass automation, relationships, life expectations and career goals;
  • questions about legacy, influence and whether or not to have children;
  • the importance of creativity and intellectual stimulation;
  • thoughts on how life can be filled with hypocrisy, confusion, excitement and beauty and joy and sorrow and plants

Thread Ripper is a dense, short, text, evidencing huge amounts of intellectual heft and research.

If it feels very real, very contemporary, explorative, digressive, discursive and really something very special.

Order Thread Ripper direct from Lolli editions – I highly recommend!!!

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