Home' LOTL : April 2004 Contents I was lucky enough to hear Jeanette Winterson speak at The
Writers Festival in March. What an experience! To my
great pleasure I found she speaks as superbly as she writes,
and as well as being inspirational, is funny and extremely
nice. Not at all the arrogant person she has often been
described as by critics.
She joked that she was there to "save our souls", a
reference to her own early life in an evangelical family. She did
just that, as she described her writing process, and her
passionate feelings about the importance of developing the
inner life. She left her notes and the lectern, stepped to the
front of the stage, and as the words flowed from her, it felt like
soul food to me. She imparted her own enthusiasm for living
life to the fullest through body, mind and soul. A passion for
language came across as she described how every word must
do its job. I felt impatient to re-read all her books.
If you have never discovered the delights of Jeanette
Winterson, start with the award-winning Oranges Are Not The
Only Fruit $22.95, written in 1983, with an illuminating
introduction from the author added to the 1991 edition.
Oranges is autobiographical, the first novel from the then 24
year old Winterson. A young working-class girl adopted into a
fanatically religious family escapes into a new life after the
disgrace of falling in love with a girl. Quite a threatening
subject for 1983, and as her debut, hilarious and completely
entrancing, it promised Winterson as a writer to watch out for.
She hasn't let her readers down over the last twenty years.
Winterson's mum, always suspicious of her daughter's
reading habit, warned her: "The trouble with a book is that
you never know what's in it 'til it's too late". And Oranges
confirmed her worst fears!
After Oranges, move on to the joys of The Passion, Written
On The Body, Sexing The Cherry, Art & Lies, and more.
Winterson is a magician with words, as her books wander, very
precisely and poetically, through issues of art, beauty,
philosophy, and sexuality.
As she read from the opening pages of her newest book
Lighthousekeeping, the first sentence "My mother called me
Silver. I was born part precious metal part pirate" gave me
goose bumps. Winterson has the swagger of a pirate about her
for sure, and is very sexy.
Winterson says she begins a book with a sentence that
comes from imagination, rather than from will. The book
slowly emerges as she explores or "unpacks" that first sentence.
I am loving her new book, but would recommend for JW
beginners that you start with the earlier books and read
through to the latest. Well, that is how I would prefer to do it
myself. And if you are already a fan, you will love the new one.
My partner and I love to read JW books aloud to each
other. Her poetic texts can be thoroughly enjoyed in this way,
and she herself reads aloud as she is writing. She says the eye
can be deceived but never the ear.
After her talk, Winterson signed books for a queue
numbering in the hundreds. A largely female audience
produced much-loved shabby paperbacks for her signature, as
well as the new Lighthousekeeping $27.95. Her glass of wine
remained untouched as she engaged in small conversations
with enthusiastic readers who waited patiently for her
signature. My over whelming impression was of her
generosity. Altogether she gave of herself in many ways.
REBECCA KAGAN GIVES "ONE OF THE
GREATEST LITERARY VOICES OF THE
WORLD" A RETROSPECTIVE.
PASSION ON THE PAGE
FICTION 1 One Degree of Separation, Karin Kallmaker 2 Death
by Death, Claire McNab 3 Up All Night: Adventures in Lesbians
Sex, Rachel Kramer Bussel 4 Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson
5 Blood Link, Claire McNab NON-FICTION 1 Highsmith,
Marijane Meaker 2 Woman to Woman, Carol Booth 3 The Infertility
Handbook, Jacqueline Tomlins 4 Essential Guide to Lesbian
Conception, Pregnancy and Birth, Kim Toevs 5 No More Secrets:
Violence in Lesbian Relationships, Janice Ristock
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