Quotes from the introduction by Winterson:
Reading is an adventure. Adventures are about the unknown. When I started to read seriously I was excited and comforted all at the same time. Literature was a mix of unfamiliarity and recognition. The situation can take us anywhere – across time and space, the globe, through lives of people who can never be like us – into the heart of anguish we have never felt – crimes we could not commit.
Yet as we travel deeper into the strange world of the story, the feeling we get is of being understood – which is odd when you think about it, because at school learning is based on whether or not we understand what we are reading. In fact it is the story (or the poem) that is understanding us.
Books read us back to ourselves.
The Grail Legend ends badly but not hopelessly. And I suppose that even tragedy as its most bleak contains an energetic core of hope, because as spectators we realise that nothing has to end the way it does. That it does end the way it does – and often badly – need not be the final answer.
Even those words, ‘final’ and ‘answer’ are faulty. The human process is continuous. And dimensional. Answers happen as movement, not stasis.
Adopted children are self-invented because we have to be; we arrive with the first pages of our story torn out. Writers are self-inventors too – we have to be – so in my case a capacity or a cast of character, (yes, that becomes a cast of characters – the multiple self of the writer) is strongly in the ascendant. Given what I am, I don’t see what else I could be, but a fictioneer.
Quotes from the book itself:
She had a mysterious attitude towards the begetting of children; it wasn’t that she couldn’t do it, more that she didn’t want to do it. She was very bitter about the Virgin Mary getting there first. So she did the next best thing and arranged for a foundling. That was me.
I did upset the children. Not intentionally, but effectively.
The sermon was on perfection, and it was at this moment that I began to develop my first theological disagreement.
In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn’t change half way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.
He was very proud of the bus, and told of the many miracles worked inside and out. Inside had six seats, so that the choir could travel with him, leaving enough room for musical instruments and a large first-aid kit in case the demon combusted somebody.
‘What do you do about the flames?’ we asked.
‘I use an extinguisher,’ he explained.
We were very impressed.
…all my relatives, like most relatives, were revolting.
I knew I couldn’t cope, so I didn’t try. I would let the feeling out later, when it was safe. For now I had to be hard and white.
People do go back, but they don’t survive, because two realities are claiming them at the same time. Such things are too much. You can salt your heart, or kill your heart, or you can choose between the two realities. There is much pain here. Some people think that you can have your cake and eat it. The cake goes mouldy and they choke on what’s left. Going back after a long time will make you mad, because the people you left behind do not like to think of you changed, will treat you as they always did, accuse you of being indifferent, when you are only different.
Everyone thinks their own situation most tragic. I am no exception.
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska