After the success of novels like Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Passion, Jeanette Winterson slipped off her pedestal, weighed down by intellectual trickery. Ann Donald sees her clambering back on.
In the introduction to her debut novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Jeanette Winterson sketched her aims for the future. She wrote: ‘It is the duty of every generation of writers and artists to find fresh ways of expressing the habitual circumstances of the human condition. To serve up the lukewarm remains of yesterday‘s dinner is easy, proﬁtable and popular (for a while). It is also wrong . . .
‘Everyone at some time in their life must choose whether to stay with a ready made world that may be safe but which is limiting. or to push forward. often past the frontiers of common sense. into a personal place. unknown and untried.’
With experimental dictum in mind. please welcome the latest offering from The Jeanette Winterson Literary Explosion. Gut Symmetries. Describing the novel. the author writes: ‘Here follows a story of time.
universe. love affair and New York. The Ship of Fools.
a Jew. a diamond. a dream. A working-class boy. a baby. a river. the sub-atomic joke of unstable matter.‘
A tentative nod of welcome should be extended to the prodigal author. Exploring the nature of love. gender and the inner self. Winterson has thankfully permitted a controlled leakage of her line wit into a challenging. fantastical novel. Gut Symmetries explores the incompatible worlds of abstract love. an and cold science. where ‘What you see is not what you think you see‘.
On the posittse side. it appears Winterson has descended from the top ﬂoor of Ivory Tower Central that made her last novel Art & [.tes such an opaque. self-indulgent intellectual exercise. Structurall). (in! .S‘_\'Illnl(’!I'i€S.S spiral narrative forges new paths for prose. but Winterson's stuudging of past. present and future into one thought process is entirely accessible.
Yet Winterson is still hung up on the essence of grandiose academia - when she tackles the theories of Hawking or Gleich. it is in arid lecture fortn. out- of-kiltcr with the body of the prose. While
Jeanette Winterson: taking a tentative step back into the limelight
(in! .S‘_\'ntitietries is a brave novel -- a w holcheancd confirmation of Winterson's desire to push forward frontiers. Yet the hangover ofArt & Lies is still apparent. The perfection of earlier novels such as The Passion or .S'ering 'I'Iie (.‘lterry lay in the balance of fine. cool wit and the author‘s ability to juggle perception. reality. love and lies while remaining true to the an of storytelling. She embraced rather than repelled the reader with clever-clever intellectual
After a few years in the wilderness. the path to
Winterson‘s vitality and suppleness of words are commendable. her storytelling ability tends to get buried beneath her aspirations to comment on
literary salvation begins here. The question is. whether Winterson's readership has the gut for it. (int .Sivmmerries by Jeanette Winterson is published
by Grunta at f I 5. 99.
Be an angel
What would you do it you suddenly sprouted wings? How would you ilnd clothes to lit and would you have the courage to ﬂy? These are the questions posed by Rapture, the debut novel irorn Michigan writer ilavid Sosnowski.
Rapture charts the spread at a new virus, ‘Angelistn’, across the IISA through the eyes oi small-time drug dealer lander Wiles, the that ‘angel’ to go public and his therapist Cassie O’Connor, herseli an angel.
The novel touches on augeiistn as a metaphor tor aids and racism, but concentrates on how the physical clungeitbringsnboutmessesupthe
Bapturous: liavld Sosnowsitl
psyches oi those aiiected by it.
‘The part that l iound most interesting,’ Sosnowski explains, ‘was not the silly, glitzy metamorphosis side oi it, though that was ten to write. I was more interested in what it did to people psychologically.’
And while this means the book spends lots oi time in that most American oi locations, on the psychiatrist’s couch, Sosnowski brings a knowing, even cynical eye to the proceedings and wraps it all up with a sly wit. ilot too bad tor a man who makes a part-time living irom writing greeting cards and bumper stickers.
The book took ten yrs to hatch irom his original idea and he suggests the titning oi publication in the midst oi the millennial-inspired
‘angei craze’ in the us was just a weird coincidence.
‘That calendar is ready to change to double zero and people just go nuts,’ he says. ‘At a guess, the craze is a kind oi compromised spiritualism. People don’t want to go the whole hog and think oi God, but angels are a good intermediary. They allow ior an embracing oi spiritualism, but there’s also this inherently human side to it.’
Sosnowski admits his own Catholic school background may have helped him discover a taste tor the ‘big questions’ when he sits down to write. ilis next novel is likely to be an inversion oi The Exorcist in which a nasty piece oi work is invaded by a good spirit. There’s a Christmas card joke in that somewhere. (Teddy .lamieson).
“The List I3 Dec I996-9 Jan 1997