Saturday, 2 October 2010

ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY FRUIT by Jeanette Winterson


This book begins charmingly. It is unpretentious and seemingly honest; and rather sweet. It's about a little girl growing up with an exceedingly religious mother. As she grows, the little girl begins to realise she is a lesbian, with predictable results as respects the mother.

It seems quite a common or garden coming out story to me, but I think at the time it was very new subject matter. Thus the fame?

It all goes a bit wrong at the end, for me anyway, when she starts inserting sections of a rather naff and quite fakey fairy tale into the story.

I sort of love the introduction. Many thanks for typing out this extract to A Literal Girl Blog

“Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was written during the winter of 1983 and the spring of 1984. I was 24. At that time I was sharing two rooms and a hip bath with the actress Vicky Licorish. She had no money, I had no money, we could not afford the luxury of a separate whites wash and so were thankful of the fashion for coloured knickers which allowed those garments most closely associated with our self-esteem, not to be grey. Dinginess is death to a writer…the damp small confines of the mediocre and the gradual corrosion of beauty and light, the compromising and the settling; these things make good work impossible. When Keats was depressed he put on a clean shirt. When Radclyffe Hall was oppressed she ordered new sets of silk underwear from Jermyn Street. Byron, as we all know, allowed only the softest, purest and whitest next to his heroic skin, and I am a great admirer of Byron. So it seemed to me in those days of no money, no job, no prospects and a determined dinginess creeping up from the lower floors of our rooming house, that there had to be a centre, a talisman, a fetish even, that secured order where there seemed to be none; dressing for dinner every night in the jungle, or the men who polished their boots to a hard shine before wading the waters of Gallipoli. To do something large and to do it well demands such observances, personal and peculiar, laughable as they often are, because they stave off that dinginess of soul that says that everything is small and grubby and nothing is really worth the effort.”

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