Hotel World, Ali Smith & Barbera d'alba, Tibaldi
Hotel World by Ali Smith with Barbera d'Alba by Tibaldi
by Kim Kent
2 years ago
Sometimes a story is a trick. Sometimes a story is a treat. Sometimes it’s both. Ali Smith’s Hotel World moves from past to present not so much in a straight line as it does in a gust of wind propelled by everything that connects us and everything that keeps us apart: language. Comprised of the tangled stories of five women entering and exiting the Global Hotel, somewhere in an unnamed British city, Smith’s novel is one part linguistic experiment, one part glittering bits, and three parts summoning spell. Exactly what she’s summoning, or whom, is harder to say, but her message is clear: Remember you must live. Less a lesson in carpe diem as one in opening your eyes. And in using them.
The Tibaldi sisters, Monica and Daniela, make wine in Piedmont, Italy, on land passed down from their grandfather, in the traditional style of harvesting by hand. I don’t know these sisters, but here’s what I know can be true about sisters, generally: sometimes their connection is almost spectral. Spooky even. In the sense that an outsider peering in might feel a sense of unease. Their barbera is bright. It’s acidic with hints of baking spices and minerality: it tastes familiar, like a stone in your shoe. “You could put ground in your mouth, couldn’t you?” But why would you when you can drink this 100% barbera from these very real sisters instead.
Ali Smith is from Scotland and is the author of many, many works of fiction, lots of which have been nominated for, and have won, various prizes and awards. Hotel World (2001) is her second novel, and, like many of her novels and stories, her work is highly crafted, often experimental, playful, and dark. I find her books challenge the way I read: they force me to read slowly and ask, sometimes, to be read out loud. The reward is well worth it.
Monica and Daniela Tibaldi are winemakers who believe in their fruit. The Tibaldi family, with the sisters at the helm as the primary winemakers, growers, and business runners, own seven hectares of land in the Piedmont region, in Roero, Italy, on mostly sandy soil. They harvest and produce all their wine by hand, in the tradition of natural winemakers making wine for their family cellars. In addition to barbera and nebbiolo, they also produce a good amount of white wine including Roero Arneis.