Art & Lies – Jeanette Winterson – Quotes

The doctor’s surgery is full of men and women who do not know why they are unhappy.
‘Take this,’ says the Doctor, ‘you’ll soon feel better.’ They do feel better because, little by little, they cease to feel at all.

Of course we have romance. Everyone can see how useful romance is. Even the newspaper like romance. They should; they have helped to create it, it is their daily doses of world malaise that poison the heart and mind to such a degree that a strong antidote is required to save what humanness is left in us. I am not a machine, there is only so much and no more that I can absorb of the misery of my kind when my tears are exhausted a dullness takes their place, and out of that dullness a terrible callousness, so that I look on suffering and feel it not.

Reportage is violence. Violence to the spirit. Violence to the emotional sympathy that should quicken in you and me when face to face we meet with pain. How many defeated among our own do we step over and push aside on our way home to watch the evening news? ‘Terrible’ ou said at Somalia, Bosnia, Ethiopia, Russia, China, the Indian earthquake, the American floods, and then you watched a quiz show or a film because there’s nothing you can do, nothing you can do, and the fear and unease that such powerlessness brings, trails in its wash, a dead arrogance of the beggar on the bridge that you pass every day. Hasn’t he got legs and a cardboard box to sleep in?
And still we long to feel.
What’s left? Romance.

The question ‘How shall I live?’ is not one can answer on prescription.
Most common are the retired or fired businessmen who develop cancer. They come to me in broken health, in fear fo their lives, and the phrase I hear first is ‘I’m not the man I was.’ As we talk it becomes clear that he is the man he has been always, yes, well-off, yes respectable, but immature, without self-knowledge, a man without breadth to depth, but shielded from this lack by his work, by his social standing, by his loving wife, by his young mistress, by his slap-on-the-back pals. Often, as we talk, he tells me that he has never liked his work, hates his family, or that he has lived for his work and that without it he is a child again and what should he do in the mornings?

Our broken society is not born out of the triumph of the individual, but out of his defacement. He vanishes, she vanishes, as then who they are and they will offer you a wallet or a child. ‘What do you do?’ is the party line, where doing is a substitute for being, and where the shame of not doing wipes away the thin chalk outline that sketches Husband Wife Banker Actor even Thief. It’s comforting, my busy life, left alone with my own thoughts I might find I have none. And left to my own emotions? Is there much beyond a childish rage and the sentimentality that passes for love?

…it is possible to resist Time’s pull. The body ages, dies, but the mind is free. If the body is personal, the mind is transpersonal, its range is not limited by action or desire. Its range is not limited by identity.

Why does she want to succeed in big business when succeeding in big business will rob from her the time allotted, in that short life, to understand something of what life is?
It’s our fault, en like me I mean, we’ve spent so long trumpeting the importance of all that we do that women believe in it and want to do it themselves. Look at me, I am a very wealthy man, at the top of my profession, and I’m running away like a schoolboy because I can’t sit at my desk even for another day. I know that everything I am and everything I stand for is worthless. How to tell her that?

When I question the great god of the market, my friend, who is atheist, laughs and calls me a dreamer, but his way of life is a nightmare. He is a successful man who has abandoned three marriages, who owns four houses, but rents them out, who lives mostly in an aeroplane, and when he is not doing that, he makes his home in a hotel, and looks for companionship at night. He has not taken a holiday in five years. He is a successful man. I said, ‘Alan, the least of animals can find a home that suits it, can get enough to eat, can bring up its young, play its part in the pack, and have time to bask in the sun. For a human being, the roof and crown of nature, those things are a considerable achievement. Most of us are substantially worse off than the rabbit in the field.

I don’t want to sound disillusioned but I am.
What were my illusions?
Progress. Love. Human, Nature.

In the antiseptic world we try to purge ourselves of difficult things. Don’t dwell on it, switch the lights off and go home. But this is home. I have to be a home to myself. I am the place I come back to and I can’t keep hiding difficult things in trunks. Soon the house will be full of trunks and I perched on top with the phone saying ‘Yes, I’m fine, of course I’m fine, everything’s fine.’ The trunks shudder.

Two things significantly distinguish human beings from the other animals; an interest in the past and the possibility of language. Brought together they make a third: Art. 

In the modern world there was so much safety that safety had become the chief source of danger.

My review of Art & Lies

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska 

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