Jeanette Winterson

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If art, all art, is concerned with truth, then a society in denial will not find much in use for it.

Jeanette Winterson (born 27 August 1959) is a British novelist.


  • But not all dark places need light, I have to remember that.
  • Round and round he walked, and so learned a very valuable thing: that no emotion is the final one.
  • Here is some advice. If you want to keep your own teeth, make your own sandwiches ....
  • The curious are always in some danger.

Boating For Beginners (1985)

  • She thought of an article she had once seen on mind control. Apparently if there was a person fiendish enough to set about interfering with your life, the only thing you could do was to concentrate hard on someone they were unlikely ever to have heard of called Martin Amis. The particular blankness of this image was guaranteed to protect from any subtle force, but Gloria realised with a sinking heart that it was too late now.
  • A sense of social hierarchy prevented Mrs Munde from actually telling the lousy bastard to get out, so instead she began to think evil thoughts. She had once read an article on mind control, explaining that the best way to bend someone to your will was to think of a gooey mudlike substance called Cliff Richard and direct it at the object of your intent. Such were the marshmellow-suffocating properties of this image that the victim fell instantly into an undignified froth. Putty in your hands in fact. It didn't seem to work. The stranger was insensitive as well as intrusive. Mrs Munde gave it one last go till the kitchen air was thick with Cliff Richard. The stranger suddenly made a little squeaking noise and fell sideways.
'Stop it, stop it!' he cried. 'You're pulping my brain.'
'Well go away then,' sulked Mrs Munde, releasing her victim, not through generosity but because she found the image too nauseating to continue.

The Passion (1987)

  • Bask in it. In spite of what the monks say, you can meet God without getting up early. You can meet God lounging in the pew. The hardship is a man-made device because man cannot exist without passion.
  • Somewhere between fear and sex passion is. The way there is sudden. The way out is worse.
  • I'm telling you stories. Trust me.
  • He doesn't understand I want the freedom to make my own mistakes.
  • My passion for her, even though she could never return it, showed me the difference between inventing a lover and falling in love. The one is about you, the other about someone else.
  • I say I'm in love with her. What does that mean? It means I review my future and my past in the light of this feeling. It is though I wrote in a foreign language that I am suddenly able to read. Wordlessly, she explains me to myself. Like genius, she is ignorant of what she does.
  • Do all lovers feel helpless and valiant in the presence of the beloved? Helpless because the need to roll over like a pet dog is never far away. Valiant because you know you would slay a dragon with a pocket knife if you had to.
  • No second chances at a single moment.
  • Gambling is not a vice, it is an expression of our humanness. We gamble. Some do it at the gaming table, some do not. You play, you win, you play, you lose, you play. (p.73)
  • What you risk reveals what you value. (p.91)
  • We didn't build our bridges simply to avoid walking on water. Nothing so obvious. A bridge is a meeting place. A neutral place. A casual place. Enemies will choose to meet on a bridge and end their quarrel in that void...For lovers, a bridge is a possibility, a metaphor of their chances. And for the traffic in whispered goods, where else but a bridge in the night? (p.57)
  • He's a curious man; a shrug of the shoulders and a wink and that's him. He's never thought it odd that his daughter cross-dresses for a living and sells second-hand purses on the side. But then, he's never thought it odd that his daughter was born with webbed feet. (p.61)
  • Religion is somewhere between fear and sex. And God? Truly? In his own right, without our voices speaking for him? Obsessed I think, but not passionate. (p.74)

Sexing the Cherry (1989)

  • No safety without risk, and what you risk reveals what you value.
  • Every journey conceals another journey within its lines: the path not taken and the forgotten angle.
  • That night two lovers whispering under the lead canopy of the church were killed by their own passion. Their effusion of words, unable to escape through the Saturnian discipline of lead, so filled the spaces of the loft that the air was all driven away. The lovers suffocated, but when the sacristan opened the tiny door the worlds tumbled him over in their desire to be free, and were seen flying across the city in the shape of doves. (p.13)

Written on the Body (1992)

  • Why is the measure of love... loss? pg.9
  • There are those who say that temptation can be barricaded beyond the door. The ones who think that stray desires can be driven out of the heart like the moneychangers from the temple. Maybe they can, if you patrol your weak points day and night, don't look, don't smell, don't dream.
  • In a vacuum all photons travel at the same speed. They slow down when travelling through air or water or glass. Photons of different energies are slowed down at different rates. If Tolstoy had known this, would he have recognised the terrible untruth at the beginning of Anna Karenina? 'All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own particular way.' In fact it's the other way around. Happiness is a specific. Misery is a generalisation. People usually know exactly why they are happy. They very rarely know why they are miserable.
  • Misery is a vacuum. A space without air, a suffocated dead place, the abode of the miserable. Misery is a tenement block, rooms like battery cages, sit over your own droppings, lie on your own filth. Misery is a no U-turns, no stopping road. Travel down it pushed by those behind, tripped by those in front. Travel down it at furious speed though the days are mummified in lead. It happens so fast once you get started, there's no anchor from the real world to slow you down, nothing to hold on to. Misery pulls away the brackets of life leaving you to free fall. Whatever your private hell, you'll find millions like it in Misery. This is the town where everyone's nightmares come true.

Art Objects (1995)

  • When was the last time you looked at anything, solely, and concentratedly, and for its own sake? Ordinary life passes in a near blur. If we go to the theatre or the cinema, the images before us change constantly, and there is the distraction of language. Our loved ones are so well known to us that there is no need to look at them, and one of the gentle jokes of married life is that we do not.
  • If art, all art, is concerned with truth, then a society in denial will not find much in use for it.
  • In the West, we avoid painful encounters with art by trivialising it, or by familiarising it. Our present obsession with the past has the double advantage of making new work seem raw and rough compared to the cosy patina of tradition, whilst refusing tradition its vital connection to what is happening now.

Gut Symmetries (1997)

  • They were letting off fireworks down at the waterfront, the sky exploding in grenades of colour. Whatever it is that pulls the pin, that hurls you past the boundaries of your own life into a brief and total beauty - even for a moment - it is enough.

The World and Other Places (1998)

  • Yes I will come for you. Roll my strength into a ball for you. Throw myself across chance for you. I will be the bridge or the pulley because you are the dream.

The Powerbook (2000)

  • The body can endure compromise and the mind can be seduced by it. Only the heart protests.
  • My heart returns to me what I turn away. I am my own master but not always master of myself.
  • What a strange world it is where you can have as much sex as you like but love is taboo. I'm talking about the real thing, the grand passion, which may not allow affection or convenience or happiness. The truth is that love smashes into your life like an ice floe, and even if your heart is built like the Titanic you go down. That's the size of it, the immensity of it. It's not proper, it's not clean, it's not containable.
  • What to say? That the end of love is a haunting. A haunting of dreams. A haunting of silence. Haunted by ghosts it is easy to become a ghost. Life ebbs. The pulse is too faint. Nothing stirs you. Some people approve of this and call it healing. It is not healing. A dead body feels no pain.
  • Only the impossible is worth the effort.
  • I felt as if I had blundered into someone else's life by chance, discovered I wanted to stay, then blundered back into my own, without a clue, a hint, or a way of finishing the story.
  • To avoid discovery I stay on the run. To discover things for myself I stay on the run.

Lighthousekeeping (2004)

  • You say we are not one, you say truly there are two of us. Yes, there were two of us, but we were one. As for myself, I am splintered by great waves. I am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.
  • I am a glass man, but there is no light in me that can shine across the sea. I shall lead no one home, save no lives, not even my own.
  • Where did love begin? What human being looked at another and saw in their face the forests and the sea? Was there a day, exhausted and weary, dragging home food, arms cut and scarred, that you saw yellow flowers and, not knowing what you did, picked them because I love you?
  • In the fossil record of our existence, there is no trace of love. You cannot find it held in the earth's crust, waiting to be discovered. The long bones of our ancestors show nothing of their hearts. Their last meal is sometimes preserved in peat or in ice, but their thoughts and feelings are gone.
  • I unlatched the shutters. The light was as intense as a love affair. I was blinded, delighted, not just because it was warm and wonderful, but because nature measures nothing. Nobody needs this much sunlight. Nobody needs droughts, volcanoes, monsoons, tornadoes either, but we get them, because our world is as extravagant as a world can be. We are the ones obsessed by measurement. the world just pours it out.
  • I went outside, tripping over slabs of sunshine the size of towns. The sun was like a crowd of people, it was a party, it was music. The sun was blaring through the walls of the houses and beating down the steps. The Sun was drumming time into the stone. The sun was rhythming the day. (p. 197)
  • It is easy to be selfish. It is hard to love who I am. No wonder I am surprised if you do. (p. 199)
  • Tell me a story, Pew.
What kind of story, child?
A story with a happy ending.
There's no such thing in all the world.
As a happy ending?
As an ending. (p. 49)

Weight (2005)

  • Choice of subject, like choice of lover, is an intimate decision.
  • Decision, the moment of saying yes, is prompted by something deeper; recognition. I recognise you; I know you again, from a dream or another life, or perhaps even from a chance sighting in a café, years ago.

The Stone Gods (2007)

  • He's the kind of man who was born to rise and rise: a human elevator. (p.7)
  • He smiled.
'Go in,' I say to him. 'Go in.'
And he passes through the door. And in the house he must make ready till I have finished my business here and come back to him.
A white Bird opens its wings. (p.116)

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? (2011)

  • There are more than two chances– many more. I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance. (p.38)
  • I was a miracle in that I could have taken her out of her life and into a life she would have liked a lot. It never happened, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there to happen. All of that has been a brutal lesson to me in not overlooking or misunderstanding what is actually there, in your hands, now. We always think the thing we need to transform everything– the miracle– is elsewhere, but often it is right next to us. Sometimes it is us, ourselves. (p.31)

Quotes about Jeanette Winterson

  • The book that made me want to write was The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. It made me feel that historical fiction didn’t have to be fusty and all about bodices, that it could be a thrilling novel, which just happened to be set in 1800.
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  1. "Why be happy when you could be normal?"