Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Art & Lies by Jeanette Winterson (with quotes)

Art & Lies by Jeanette Winterson is like reading an opera.  Three stories are told, refrains that echo from one voice to the other and metaphors are reformed in new contexts.  The three voices of the story are:  Handel, a Catholic priest and surgeon; Picasso, a woman and painter; and Sappho, a poet who transcends time.

I once heard someone say in response to Winterson’s writing, “I don’t want to think when I read.”  Never has one of Winterson’s novels invited me to think more, to follow the way her metaphors echo and move along the story and how the three narratives eventually and inevitably weave together, like the three voices in an aria, three melodies building separately and then coming together in crescendo.  Her stream-of-consciousness is so rarely attempted anymore and less rarely so well achieved.

But yes, a reader must be willing to think when reading Winterson’s writing because she isn’t just tossing words onto the page–she’s creating magic.  Poetic, artistic, and, above all else, unapologetic.  She need offer me no apologies.  I loved it all.

I offer the following quotes which I selected sometimes for what they said, other times for how Winterson says it.  Any grammatical errors are as they appeared in the text.  I didn't want to bother inserting a [sic] because I'm feeling lazy.  Spellings are British.  

Art & Lies

Isn’t it well known that nothing shocks us?  That photographs of wretchedness that thirty years ago would have made us protest in the streets, now flicker by our eye and we hardly see them?  More vivid, more graphic, more pornographic even, is the newsman’s brief.  He must make us feel, but like a body punched and punched again, we take the blows and do not even notice the damage they have done.  (14)

It is impossible for man to read and earn money at the same time, unless he is a reviewer. . . . [P]ray never to fall so low.  (29)

A minute can still alter a lifetime.  (45)

Is language sex?  Say my name and you say sex.  (66)

There’s no such thing as autobiography there’s only art and lies.  (69)

We don’t mind living next door to the harmless lady with her herb garden and decoction still, her black cat and red hair.  Once we would have tied her to the stake and burned her, but these days it’s just faggots that offend.  (107-108)
Progress is not one of those floating comparatives, so beloved of our friends in advertising, we need a context, a perspective.  What are we better than?  Who are we better than?  Examine this statement: Most people are better off.  Financially?  socially? Educationally? medically?  spiritually? 
I dare not ask you if you are happy? 
Are you happy?  (109)
Why sterilise death, hoping to make it clean and acceptable when it is what it has always been, furious, messy, full of doubt and anguish, but not hopeless, not pointless, it is an event in life.  (115)

[T]he priest adores the sin.  No sin no priest.  The doctor needs the wound. Fallen creatures thrive on gravity, that which pulls us down is the spur that raises us up.  (117-118)

‘Because he had not pity.’  The punishable sin is not lust, not even adultery, the sin is not to do with sex at all.  It is a failure of feeling.  Not an excess of passion but a lack of compassion.  (120)

Why do I fear what I love?  (122)

She prayed not out of self-pity nor regret but out of recognition.  (135)

[H]istory always repeats itself.  The past fitted in a new wedding shroud and married to the future.  (136)

Lie beside me and let the seeing be the healing.  No need to hide.  No need for either darkness or light.  Let me see you as you are.  (136)

In the modern world there was so much safety that safety had become the chief source of danger.  (153)

How shall I stretch out my hand to touch another when I am unable to touch myself?  (162)

There’s a legend . . . that Lucifer had no genitals until he rebelled against God, thereby grew the monstrous sacks and the thick pole of popular envy and fear.  Cut them off and a man never growls with the beasts.  Cut them off and a man sings with the angels again.  (174)

Very few Catholics are theologians.  It is our method to leave the thinking to some and the obeying to many.  (179)

That is why I left the Church, not the teachings of Christ but the dogmas of Man, and when I turn to the Church now, I know, God forgive me, that it is because I am too weak to turn to myself.  (186)

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