Saturday, November 10, 2007

On Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

In case you have not been following the recent series of essays on Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit for The Guardian's Book Club -- here's the essay Winterson wrote on the conception of the book that many believe is autographical.

I wonder: does it matter if the story is autobiographical? Aren't all books eventually about the writer and his/her world? What is more interesting in the essay, I felt, is when Winterson points out the miracle of story-telling and how it helps us recreate ourselves, our identity:

I believe in stories, in story-telling, because a story can answer a question without reducing that question to banality. "Who am I?" is a huge question, and the answer develops, unfolds, reveals itself throughout the whole of our life. At birth, we are only the visible corner of a folded map. The geography of the self is best explored with a guide, and for me art is such a guide. I write fiction because I want to get nearer to the truth.

Finally, she ends with this note:

The trick is, the gift is, the miracle is, that what begins as private notation becomes language other people can use. The books we love speak for us and speak to us. I am always in dialogue with the books that have affected me. Stories start other stories. That's how it is.

How true, that all writing eventually becomes a dialogue. The books we read somehow becomes a part of us. Have you ever experienced that moment, when you read something -- and it hits you, like a knife to the heart, that it is about you?

Related:

  • John Mullan's essay on the Bible as source of structure and meaning in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.
  • Round-up of the Book Club.

4 comments:

Nymeth said...

I've had moments like that, yes. I love what she's saying. It's so very true.

It's funny, just this morning I was at the bookstore, and I read Terry Pratchett's foreword to "The Ultimate Encyclopaedia of Fantasy". He uses other words to say pretty much those things. He is talking about fantasy, but it applies to storytelling in general. Stories make us who we are.

Dark Orpheus said...

Winterson is one of those writers who (earlier) works hit me most powerfully. When I read "The Passion", it felt like she was writing about me. I have been a fan since then, even if her recent works have disappointed me somewhat.

If we take an anthropological POV, all cultures have their tradition of story-telling. Which makes it sad everytime I hear people say they don't read fiction because it is not real.

jean pierre said...

ah, very interesting! i especially like what she says about writing addressing larger questions like that.

i've never actually consciously realised that...

Dark Orpheus said...

Jean Pierre Have you heard the podcast? It was very interesting, informative, and most of all, funny.

Guess writers are really just ordinary people trying to figure things out too.