I READ this book ‘blind.’ Aside from learning via Wikipedia that Jeanette Winterson is lesbian, I had no other knowledge about JW and her works. Consequently, I had no idea what to expect from this memoir.
Reading it, I found out that JW was adopted and had had the misfortune of having an abusive adoptive mother. This book is about her childhood for the most part — how her religious and ‘apocalyptic’ mother had shaped who she is, her sexuality, and the vantage point with which she views the world. The latter pages also explored her search for her biological mother.
And yes, the title is very intriguing. Oo nga naman.
In any case, why could there not be experience and experiment? Why could there not be the observed and the imagined? Why should a woman be limited by anything or anybody? Why should a woman not be ambitious for literature? Ambitious for herself?
I needed words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence.
So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language — and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers — a language powerful enough to say how it is.
It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.
I have noticed that doing the sensible things is only a good idea when the decision is quite small. For the life-changing things, you must risk it.
And here is the shock — when you risk it, when you do the right things, when you arrive at the borders of common sense and cross into unknown territory, leaving behind you all the familiar smells and lights, then you do not experience great joy and huge energy.
You are unhappy. Things get worse.
It is a time of mourning. Loss. Fear. We bullet ourselves through with questions. And then we feel shot and wounded.
And then all the cowards come out and say, ‘See, I told you so.’
In fact, they told you nothing.
We have a capacity for language. We have a capacity for love. We need other people to release those capacities.
She tells me I was never a secret — me — who thought via Mrs. Winterson that everything had to be secret — books and lovers, real names, real lies.
And then she wrote, ‘You were always wanted.’
Do you understand that, Jeanette? You were always wanted.
Happy endings are only a pause. There are three kinds of big endings: Revenge. Tragedy. Forgiveness. Revenge and Tragedy often happen together. Forgiveness redeems the past. Forgiveness unblocks the future.
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