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Jeanette Winterson

  • ... people had changed — or rather fridges had changed them. Mrs. Munde felt that being able to store food for longer periods had broken down the community spirit. There was no need to share now, no need to meet every day, gathering your veg or killing a few rabbits.

  • Myths hook and bind the mind because at the same time they set the mind free: they explain the universe while allowing the universe to go on being unexplained; and we seem to need this even now, in our twentieth-century grandeur.

  • The Bible writers didn't care that they were bunching together sequences some of which were historical, some preposterous, and some downright manipulative. Faithful recording was not their business; faith was.

  • Every believer is an anarchist at heart. True believers would rather see governments topple and history rewritten than scuff the cover of their faith.

  • She didn't know that on the wild nights no one can call you home except the one who knows your name.

  • The impulse to worship is impossible to eradicate. Even the most prosaic have to worship something.

  • ... no emotion is the final one.

  • Very often history is a means of denying the past.

  • We are all historians in our small way.

  • The curious are always in some danger. If you are curious you might never come home ...

  • Walls protect and walls limit. It is in the nature of walls that they should fall. That walls should fall is the consequence of blowing your own trumpet.

  • I have a theory that every time you make an important choice, the part of you left behind continues the other life you could have had.

  • Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power. But on the wild nights who can call you home? Only the one who knows your name.

  • ... there are different kinds of infidelity, but betrayal is betrayal wherever you find it. By betrayal, I mean promising to be on your side, then being on somebody else's.

  • I've never been tempted by God but I like his trappings.

    • Jeanette Winterson,
    • "The Queen of Spades," The Passion ()
  • There were those who claimed that love, if it be allowed at all, must be kept tame by marriage vows and family ties so that its fiery heat warms the hearth but does not burn down the house.

  • For myself, I would rather live with sins of excess than sins of denial.

  • The trouble is that when most people are apathetic ordinary people ... have to go too far, have to ruin their lives and be made an object of scorn just to get the point across. Did they really think I'd rather be camping by a polluted river than sitting in my own flat with my things about me?

  • Every journey conceals another journey within its lines: the path not taken and the forgotten angle.

  • The most prosaic of us betray a belief in the inward life every time we talk about 'my body' rather than 'I.'

  • Language always betrays us, tells the truth when we want to lie, and dissolves into formlessness when we would most like to be precise.

  • I have met a great many people on their way towards God and I wonder why they have chosen to look for him rather than themselves.

  • Are we all living like this? Two lives, the ideal outer life and the inner imaginative life where we keep our secrets?

  • I don't hate men, I just wish they'd try harder. They all want to be heroes and all we want is for them to stay at home and help with the housework and the kids. That's not the kind of heroism they enjoy.

  • ... reading is not a passive act. It's a creative act. It's a relationship between the writer and a person the writer will probably never meet. I think it's very wrong to write in a way that leaves no room for the reader to maneuver. I don't want to get in the way. What I'd really like to do is to perform the Indian Rope Trick — go higher and higher and eventually disappear.

    • Jeanette Winterson,
    • in Belles Lettres ()
  • I think writing is a process that starts long before the writers are actually writers and probably goes on long afterward. It's rather like the way the Arabs weave rugs. They don't stop. They just cut them off at a certain spot on the loom. There is no particular beginning or end.

    • Jeanette Winterson,
    • in Belles Lettres ()
  • Why is the measure of love loss?

  • Why is it that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? 'I love you' is always a quotation.

  • Love demands expression. It will not stay still, stay silent, be good, be modest, be seen and not heard, no. It will break out in tongues of praise, the high note that smashes the glass and spills the liquid.

  • ... how easy it is to destroy the past and how difficult to forget it.

  • What you risk reveals what you value.

  • You don't get over it because 'it' is the person you loved.

  • Even death after a long illness is without warning. The moment you had prepared for so carefully took you by storm. The troops broke through the window and snatched the body and the body is gone. ... Death reduces us to the baffled logic of a small child. If yesterday why not today?

  • Happiness is a specific. Misery is a generalization. People usually know exactly why they are happy. They very rarely know why they are miserable.

  • However it is debased or misinterpreted, love is a redemptive feature. To focus on one individual so that their desires become superior to yours is a very pleasing experience.

    • Jeanette Winterson,
    • in The London Times ()
  • [On being asked to name the best living author writing in English:] No one working in the English language now comes close to my exuberance, my passion, my fidelity to words.

    • Jeanette Winterson,
    • in The Sunday Times ()
  • There is no such thing as autobiography. There's only art and lies.

    • Jeanette Winterson,
    • in The Guardian ()
  • Journalism encourages haste ... and haste is the enemy of art.

  • Sometimes we forget that if we do not encourage new work now, we will lose all touch with the work of the past we claim to love. If art is not living in a continuous present, it is living in a museum, only those working now can complete the circuit between the past, present and future energies we call art.

  • ... unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven.

  • ... the power of a text is not time-bound. The words go on doing their work.

  • Working-class families in the north of England used to hear the 1611 Bible regularly at church and at home ... for us, the language didn't seem too difficult. I especially liked 'the quick and the dead' — you really get a feel for the difference if you live in a house with mice and a mousetrap.

  • The trouble with a book is that you never know what's in it until it's too late.

  • ... whatever is on the outside can be taken away at any time. Only what is inside you is safe.

  • Books, for me, are a home. Books don't make a home — they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside.

  • I have noticed that doing the sensible thing is only a good idea when the decision is quite small. For the life-changing things, you must risk it.

  • Mrs. Winterson was not a welcoming woman. If anyone knocked at the door she ran down the lobby and shoved the poker through the letter box.

  • The only sex education my mother ever gave me was the injunction: 'Never let a boy touch you down there.' I had no idea what she meant. She seemed to be referring to my knees.

  • Poetry is easier to learn than prose. Once you have learned it you can use it as a light and a laser. It shows up your true situation and it helps you cut through it.

  • Yes, the past is another country, but one that we can visit, and once there we can bring back the things we need.

  • Memoir ... satisfies our need for gossip and intimacy, for testimony and confessional, and in this world of spin, offers a truthful account of what it means to succeed or fail, to love and lose, to break your heart and mend it again.

    • Jeanette Winterson,
    • in O: The Oprah Magazine ()
  • To love someone else enough to forget about yourself even for a moment is to be free.

    • Jeanette Winterson
  • I think every work of art is an act of faith, or we wouldn't bother to do it. It is a message in a bottle, a shout in the dark. It's saying 'I'm here and I believe that you are somewhere and that you will answer if necessary across time, not necessarily in my lifetime.'

    • Jeanette Winterson
  • Going back after a long time will make you mad, because the people you left behind do not like to think of you as changed, will treat you as they always did, accuse you of being indifferent, when you are only different.

  • Language is a finding place, not a hiding place.

    • Jeanette Winterson,
    • "Shafts of Sunlight," The Guardian ()
  • Writers are not here to conform. We are here to challenge. We're not here to be comfortable — we're here, really, to shake things up. That's our job.

    • Jeanette Winterson
  • I’m always nervous about going home, just as I am nervous about rereading books that have meant a lot to me.

Jeanette Winterson, English writer

(1959)