Jeanette Winterson

You stalk me through halls footpad
softly with your eyes closed coppergauze

You follow me through places I've
never been watch
me unseen shadowbox.

Why am I afraid of you?

You whisper your name I
hear waterfalling climb fishladder
smooth to meet you.

I had no idea, Jeanette
Winterson, how softly you
spoke, your voice casting
through me, rumbling
my bones.

You seemed taller in your books.

   - dm (an original poem)

Jeanette Winterson (1959- )

Biographical Information (summarized mainly from this site)

Born in Manchester, England in 1959. Raised from a very young age to be an evangelical missionary by her devout working middle-class parents, John Winterson and Constance Brownrigg. In addition to her Pentecostal upbringing, Winterson early on developed a voracious appetite for reading (and not just the Bible, to the dismay of her parents). She left home at the age of sixteen after 'discussing' her first lesbian encounter with her parents. Working a number of 'odd' jobs, she eventually settled in London (1981) and became a full time writer (1987).

Author of (among other things)...

Art and Lies: A Piece for Three Voices and a Bawd (1994)
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1987)* 
The Passion (1987)
Sexing the Cherry (1990)
Written on the Body (1992)
Boating for Beginners (comic book, unsure of year)
Art Objects : Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery (1995)
Gut Symmetries (1997)
The Power Book (2000)

*((Winterson wrote the script for a film version as well))

I haven't read a lot of her work, but what I have read has me very interested in getting more. I just finished reading Art and Lies and I have to say that it is one of the most beautifully written novels I have read in the last five years. Unlike a lot of postmodern-esque 'fiction', Winterson's characters actually seem to be more than just words on a page, you get involved in her work. (Not that I dislike anything that doesn't involve me, but it is nice to feel something once in a while...).

Winterson reminds me of Edmond Jabès in a number of ways (though there are, obviously, vast and important differences...). Nevertheless, both writers can write a 'story' but neither are focused entirely on the story, both write some of the most beautiful prose-poetry around, and both can provide interesting philosophical/theoretical fodder, if you are interested in that sort of thing. In particular, I think a strong comparison can be drawn between Winterson's discussion of whiteness and the figure of white in Art and Lies, and Jabès' use of the figure of the desert (throughout most of his work(s)). Both writers also focus on the (variety of) problems involved with writing and the nature of the Word.

An example from Art and Lies...

Day and night stretch before the word, hunger and cold mock it, but the Word itself is day and the Word itself is night. The word Hunger the word Cold. I cannot eat my words but I do. I eat the substance, bread, and I take it into me, word and substance, substance and word, daily communion, blessed.

Who calls whom? The word shaped out of the substance as the sculpture is shaped from the stone. The word imposed upon the substance as the wind reforms the rock. The clashing made and making words. The Word out of flux and into form.

On the barrel of the wind the falcon

I love the deception of sand and sea. What appears is not what is. The long reaches of uncertainty draw me out, barefooted, half-dressed, when there is no colour in the sky. White skin in a white dress along the white edge of the sea. ((Art and Lies, 54))

In addition to her stunning prose and stylistic niceties, Winterson's storytelling is anything but average. Art and Lies revolves (principally) around three characters, one of whom is Winterson's interesting take on the Greek poet(ess?) Sappho. Watching her weave fables in amongst '18th century pornography' and the exhaustion of modern existence is both amusing and (at times) gut wrenching. This isn't meant to sound like an advertisement, I'm just usually emphatically pro good things.

To anyone interested in innovative fiction, that manages to remain both engaging and readable, I would highly suggest picking up (for starters) Art and Lies, or Sexing the Cherry

***As I read more of her work I will update this node accordingly. This is not an empty threat.***

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