Thursday, March 30, 2006
The Lesbian Novel and Me
Just up the road is Jeanette Winterson. She has a flat above a shop, but does not, presumably, count herself among the common people as she owns the shop, the flat, the entire crooked building and paid for it all in cash, by (and from) her own account. She doesn't seem to get out much. I wonder about her, if she spends the daylight hours hunched over a William and Mary bureau scribbling in tiny copperplate, if she's shy, or nocturnalised, if after years of front and forthrightness she's rethought herself as an inner city recluse. It's a strange, though gorgeous spot to choose for the pursuit of a quiet life. When I have seen her, climbing the stairs with a glass vase of lilies, or looking out of her crooked house windows at a commotion in the street, I've been jolted somewhat. Writers are people that we encounter through their work, and it is unnerving to see them engaged in private pursuits, interrupted, distracted. And Winterson belongs to, or rather comes from an entirely other England than me. Northern, God-fearing, gay. I am glad that she has been around, being Jeanette Winterson, for the last fifteen years, even though I struggle with her fiction. There is an iconic quality about her, that goes beyond her hair, or her nose. I remember that the tendons on her forearms would stick out when she squeezed some emphasis into a fist on late night discussion programs. She always seemed convinced, and as a result was often convincing, in her arguments. Now she has a shop, albeit a very special one. She is Roger of the Raj.