22 August 2005
Speaking of Which: Jeanette Winterson
In my previous post I name-dropped Rain Taxi, easily among the best journals monitoring the pulse of edge literature. For the online summer edition, Vincent Francone interviewed the maddeningly-brilliant novelist Jeanette Winterson, who had some bold things to say about U.S. politics, narrative, her legal settlings with a cybersquatter and an (*ahem*) un-named U.S. coffee company, our obsession with corporations, the failure of organized religion, and the role writing, reading and thinking has in all of the above. Here are some of the more choice cuts:
19th-century novels are fabulous and we should all read them, but we shouldn’t write them. I think that’s the important point. People are obsessed with narrative, which has had its day. I used to think that the movies would mop up all of that need for straightforward narrative, and allow fiction to find a whole different path…It seems to me that all those early experiments with novels were really trying to find a way of constructing narrative which is in fact truer to our own experience. There’s nobody on this planet, even the stupidest person, who lives in one time anyway. You’re walking down the street and at the same time you’re thinking of something that happened to you a couple of years ago and you’re wondering about something that is going to happen the day after tomorrow, and you hold these realities in your head simultaneously. It’s not a problem. So for a fiction writer to try and reproduce that seems to me to be more authentic than somebody who says, No, we all live in this monolithic reality.
This world talks endlessly about freedom of choice, but we’ve never been more of a nation of robots. Everybody is seduced by corporate culture. They more or less do what the big sinister, faceless companies want them to do: spend money, buy stuff, don’t think about anything, don’t question anything. It’s a crazy way to live. If you’re involved in art at any level you’re always questioning the status quo, because that’s what art does. And it’s absolutely not a luxury. It’s essential. It’s one of the things which makes a tolerable life possible. Otherwise it would all be Wal-Mart and shopping malls, wouldn’t it?