Dear Ms. Jeanette Winterson, (for I know not whether to address you “O magnificent writer/ poet of romantic lesbian tales” or The Great Deceiver),
You tricked me. You played with my emotions. You led me down a garden path of supreme romance.
And then you threw a bowling ball in my gut. It hurt.
I hope you enjoyed yourself.
If I ever should meet my idol, she would no doubt knock me out with a bottle of scotch. And I would probably deserve it.
But you shouldn’t have done it, Jeanette!
Okay. I’m over it.
Once in a while there comes a writer who is by nature a poet. Her every sentence, her every word is fashioned from angel dust. Such a writer is Jeanette Winterson. That she is also a lesbian is a bonus for the Sisterhood.
Who else could devote nearly 20 pages to describing the human body — any body — and make it sound erotic? Who else could write about the cells, the lining of the mouth, the cavities of the body, the dermis and epidermis, the collar bone, and all the other parts of a human, and simply make it so blasted erotic? It is enough to make me want to attack the next woman I see. Passages such as this one:
TASTE. THERE ARE FOUR FUNDAMENTAL SENSATIONS OF TASTE: SWEET SOUR BITTER AND SALT
My lover is an olive tree whose roots grow by the sea. Her fruit is pungent and green. It is my joy to get at the stone of her. The little stone of her hard by the tongue. Her thick-fleshed salt-veined swaddle stone.
Who eats an olive without first puncturing the swaddle? The waited moment when the teeth shoot a strong burst of clear juice that has in it the weight of the land, the vicissitudes of the weather, even the first name of the olive keeper …
Virtually every reviewer of “Written On The Body” makes a Big Deal out of the fact that Winterson does not specifically state whether her protagonist is male or female. But that is not the point. Who truly cares whether it is a he or a she? I didn’t. What I did care about was the genuinely overpowering emotion it evoked in me, so powerful that I had to stop for “sanity breaks” from time to time.
If I could be anyone in the world, I think I might be Jeanette Winterson. So I was thrilled when I saw an interview with her that firmly established that we are indeed sisters. For example,
- We both wear reading glasses. (I know, so do a lot of people, but this is different.)
- We both write orally. True. Jeannette and I both talk out loud when we write. Winterson describes writing as “lovers’ talk”, and I agree. (Sadly, that is the end of the similarity in our writing.)
- We both drowned ourselves in Huck Finn, Aladdin and all the other wonderful books of childhood.
Do gift yourself a bit of time to see the whole interview. You will come away loving Jeanette Winterson as much as I do:
There is one issue I have with “Written On The Body” (besides the bowling ball episode noted above). The ending. On the one hand, it wasn’t the ending I wanted. On the other hand, Life doesn’t always give us the ending we want, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.
If you have not yet discovered that sublime lesbian poet, Jeanette Winterson, do so now. Read “Written On The Body”. You will thank me for cajoling you into doing it.
Outstanding Reviews of Winterson’s Other Works
There are so many that it is hard to know here to begin, but let’s begin with “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?”, her autobiographical work that pierced the hearts of lesbian lovers around the globe. Maria Popova on Brain Pickings presents a very fine review of that book. This is one of those extraordinary books that is nearly impossible to critique or summarize, for each word is essential to the whole.
“The Daylight Gate” is a whole different creature. I have been avoiding doing a review of it because frankly there is just too much violence for my preference. But the book indeed has literary merit, and for those who enjoy the genre, is quite outstanding. Kaya Genc provides an excellent review of “The Daylight Gate” in the Rumpus Room. And this interview gives interesting insights into DayLight Gate and other “gates” of life.
Do you have a favorite Jeanette Winterson? Please jot a note below and tell us a bit about it.