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ART OBJECTS by Jeanette Winterson

ART OBJECTS

Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery

By Jeanette Winterson

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44644-3
Publisher: Knopf

 A self-important grab bag of essays on art, sex, and writing by one of England's preeminent literary talents. Despite her professed admiration for Modernist giants such as Virginia Woolf, Winterson's (Art and Lies, p. 105, etc.) vision is essentially a Romantic one, tricked up with a few stylistic gimmicks to give it a high-gloss experimental veneer. Following in a long, proud tradition from Wordsworth to Eliot, Winterson uses these essays to propound aesthetic theories that, stripped to their essence, are nothing so much as celebrations and justifications of her own work. Still there is something both noble and fussily quaint about her high regard for art and ``the artist,'' her faith that they still hold an overwhelming importance: ``If we say that art, all art is no longer relevant to our lives, then we might at least risk the question `What has happened to our lives?' '' When she neglects her self-conscious stylings and self-preoccupation, when she doesn't try so hard for ecstasy and effrontery, Winterson can be a fine writer. These essays are decorated throughout with sensitive perceptions and beautifully nuanced phrasings (consider the title's subtle pun), but sooner or later she feels the need to be a WRITER again and begins stomping recklessly about her carefully arranged china shop. While we can't usually choose our intellectual influences, Winterson also reflects a particularly insular British kind of parochialism that does not seem to recognize any literature west of the Liffey and later than 1945. Strange for a writer who so strenuously--at least in these essays- -rejects realism and blindly following tradition: ``If prose- fiction is to survive it will have to do more than to tell a story. Fiction that is printed television is redundant fiction.'' Despite their occasional glimmerings, few of these essays measure up to even the briefest paragraphs from one of Winterson's novels.