Art And Lies

Paperback | June 24, 1995

byJeanette Winterson

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'There is no such thing as autobiography, there is only art and lies'. Set in a London of the near future, its three principal characters, Handel, Picasso and Sappho, separately flee the city and find themselves on the same train, drawn to one another through the curious agency of a book. Stories within stories take us through the unlikely love affairs of one Doll Sneerpiece, an 18th century bawd, and into the world of painful beauty where language has the power to heal. Art & Lies is a question and a quest: How shall I live?

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From the Publisher

'There is no such thing as autobiography, there is only art and lies'. Set in a London of the near future, its three principal characters, Handel, Picasso and Sappho, separately flee the city and find themselves on the same train, drawn to one another through the curious agency of a book. Stories within stories take us through the unli...

From the Jacket

One of the most audacious writers on either side of the Atlantic now gives us an arousing and wise improvisation on art, Eros, and identity.A train hurtles through the future with three passengers on board: a disillusioned surgeon named Handel, whose humanity has been sacrificed to intellect; a woman artist named Picasso, cast out by a...

A novelist whose honours include England’s Whitbread Prize, and the American Academy’s E. M. Forster Award, as well as the Prix d’argent at the Cannes Film Festival, JEANETTE WINTERSON burst onto the literary scene as a very young woman in 1985 with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Her subsequent novels, including Sexing the Cherry, The...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8 × 5.18 × 0.3 inPublished:June 24, 1995Publisher:Knopf Canada

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0394280814

ISBN - 13:9780394280813

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Extra Content

From the Author

The sub-title of this book is - A piece for three voices and a bawd. The three voices are Handel, a distinguished surgeon and one-time Catholic priest. Picasso, a young woman who wants to be a painter. Sappho, a poet, in 660 BC and now. The bawd in question is one Doll Sneerpiece, an eighteenth century whore. The book is set in an imagined future where the State has almost total control and where individual values count for nothing. The action takes place in a single day as the three travel towards the coast by train. Narratives that are separate gradually come together until by the end of the book, all three destinies have combined. All of my books manipulate time, in an effort to free the mind from the effects of gravity. The present has a weight to it - the weight of our lives, the weight of now. By imaginatively moving sideways, I try to let in more light and air. So in this book, Sappho both is and isn't the ancient poet of antiquity. She is and isn't a modern day beat poet living in a squat. She's double. Her own double. Handel is the way into the book. Think of him as a Handle as well as a play on the composer. He's old-fashioned, reserved, sensitive, afraid of the brave new world as well as being conscious of it being the logical product of men like himself. He's not a hate figure though, he's someone I wanted to understand. Picasso. Well, take the most famous painter of the twentieth century and re-gender him. I was thinking of that Virginia Woolf passage in A Room of One's Own, where she talks about Shakespeare's sister and what an impossible life she would have had, even (or especially) with the same genius. The Picasso in this book is struggling with all the assumptions of gender and creativity and trying to avoid the three options open to women artists of all kinds - 1) failure. 2) a modest success (i.e. unthreatening to men), 3) madness. Each of the voices has his or her own distinctive style and vocabulary, but Sappho's is clearly a construct and removed from the kind of language we speak. I wanted this strangeness, - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. but it is sustained, and as an experiment in language it was worth doing, if only to question assumptions/expectations about how things should sound. I guess sound is the key to this book. I always read my work out-loud when I'm writing it and I think of myself as a writer who is at best read out loud. This is probably because I come from an oral and not a literary tradition. It is also because I am more interested in poetry than prose. If my lines are difficult, try them out-loud, as you would with a poem. Then the sense is soon there.

Read from the Book

The man lay with his head propped on the book. The back of his skull felt hot, not hot and sticky as his forehead did, but as though his head had been packed with embers. There were ashes in his mouth.He opened his eyes and saw the neutral roof of the train. He breathed consciously, hating the flat air, and it seemed to him that every dead thing in his life was crouching over him, taking the air.He got up suddenly, too quickly, saw the train in a whirligig out of the bullseyes of his sockets. Round and round the neutral patterned seats, round and round the faux wood tables, the still train spinning.Twisted faces lurched at him as he was caught in a kaleidoscope of arms. Round and round, the sick of his stomach, and the rouletting train. He fell.He fell at the window with both fists, impossible, against the safety glass. In his dream terror he saw the hammer, or was it the axe, strapped snug in a little red holder against the heave. He put his hand through the shattering plastic, and heard somewhere, a long way off, the dull ugly bell that warned him to go back to the schoolroom, back to the operating theatre, that the oxygen was low, that someone was at the door to see him. The door. He found the door, sealed in its protective, insulating rubber, and with all his strength, he brought the axe to cleave the seam.The vacuum dispersed. The doors bounced apart, just enough for him to shove the haft between them, and then he thought that two angels came on either side of his wounded arms, and pulled the doors back, and off their runners.He let the axe fall, and stepped off the loose steel plates, on to the concrete harbour. Ahead, the cliffs, the sea, the white beach deserted, and the light.He was carrying the book.Years ago he had been in a car crash. He had been driving steadily, the smooth road, clear, controlled, then, as he tried to turn the wheel, the car disobeyed. The servile box of leather and steel turned on him, turned over and over on him, the tarmac rearing up off the hard core and coming through the windscreen at his face. He had been listening to Turandot and the compact disc jammed but would not break; La speranza, La speranza, La speranza, why had he not died? He often thought of it and wondered what the grace was for and why he had never acknowledged it. A second life. For what? Only to do again what he had done before but this time blunted by repetition? When he had crawled out from under the molten car, he had walked purposefully for two miles, before a police car picked him up. He said, 'There's nothing the matter Officer. I am a doctor.' He had shown them the tattered ribbons of his driving licence. Later, much later, well again, he had joked about the effects of shock on himself, effects he had handled in others so many times over so many hospital years.'You know,' he said, 'the odd thing was that I truly believed myself well and whole. I had a broken arm, a fractured ankle, burns, and I was bleeding. Nevertheless, I believed myself well.'He knew the physiology of it, of course he did, and yet it troubled him. In what other ways did he deceive himself out of his wounded life?

Editorial Reviews

"Winterson's most ambitious work...beautiful writing, shaped line by line into word sculptures....I salute Winterson's skill at word-turning and word-spinning, her ability to mint shining images in a few golden lines." The Independent on Sunday, U.K."Several leaps forward in sophistication and technique from The Passion, which won the 1987 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize...a smooth-running...piece of machinery, which throws out... brilliant sparks." The Gazette"Dazzling...truly exciting to read." The Times, (UK)"Powerful." The Toronto Sun"Winterson soars with Art and Lies." The Calgary Herald"Expands the gender game...hurtles along so breathtakingly.... Intriguing.... Profound." Now magazine"If words were diamonds and sentences necklaces, Jeanette Winterson would be the De Beers of literature." Entertainment Weekly