See, this was a completely accidental read for me. I had a long day, was supposed to have full day of research though it then turned out that I was too tired – just being honest here, about what a postgrad’s life really looks like. And of course, it was also the one day that I didn’t bring a book with me to university. What a cliché. So naturally, I ventured into the library, looking for something to keep me occupied for a few hours. I went through the Publishing section, realised I’m not in the mood (you can see I really tried to not completely give up for the day), and so ventured into the Literary studies section (I would have chosen that one as my degree but I hate dissecting literature so much – I don’t care what this and that means according to this and that professor, I just want to read!). As I’m walking through the shelves, scanning the book spines, there it is – Winterson. And I think to myself, ‘It has been a while, hasn’t it? Let’s go for it.’
As a heads up, I’d also like to say that I seem to be the only person who’s read Winterson before (well, not her, her books) but haven’t heard of Written on the Body. Now that I was happily united with a book, I got my usual cup of coffee, found the quietest and emptiest table in the library (the week of reading week? borderline impossible), and dived in.
And what a dive.
Jeanette Winterson has a way with words only very few authors do (that I have read). While I was reading Written on the Body, it was like being in a garden that’s blooming with petals of all colours and shapes (we’ll get back to the topic of shapes later), in a time lapse. And you’re part of it – isn’t it beautiful, when you feel included?
My first reaction (and I’m quoting my Instagram post I made about this book, trying to practice the academia necessities that seem to rule the world of dissertations, although apparently I shouldn’t quote myself because why would we want to build onto our knowledge when we can ignore everything we’ve done so far and choose a topic we know nothing about? rant over) was:
“This book is so good I just want to fold myself in between its pages and live off of the words.”¹
Her prose is like poetry (ha!). It takes you in, it warms you up, sometimes it consoles you, other times it spits you out after a few pages, yet you come back for more. I won’t bother you with the plot description, that’s what Google and Goodreads are for (I am so doing this blogger thing wrong, am I not?) though I will tell you that we get to know a lot of the character’s relationships, boyfriends, girlfriends, and the love of her life, Louise. I didn’t see any issues with this piece of text, just love and admiration, until I went to Goodreads, to see what other people whose opinion I value think. Well, they seem to mostly have issues. Body shaming issues.
There is, undeniably, a lot of negative comments about this one character who is not thin. There is a husband of Louise (the protagonist seems to have a thing for this) whose body is not described in the most pleasant of ways. Like I said, it didn’t turn me off of the text while reading, though on a second thought it is definitely there. Is Winterson the one who sees things that way? Is it the protagonist? Is Winterson taking the piss? I will say, loud and clear, that I am absolutely against fat shaming, skinny shaming, anything shaming because I believe that we should all just focus on ourselves and let be what’s not our business. A lot of people seem to be angered by what Winterson has done in this particular novel, though. Personally, I didn’t see it in there until it was pointed to me, and I am very sensitive towards things like this. But maybe it’s true what they say – you only see what you want to see.
Nonetheless, I would recommend everyone read this book, even if it’s only to see whether you have issues with it or not. Although I beg not everyone come live inside its pages with me as that would get rather crowded and I do like my personal space. Lots of it.
¹laylajaglovs. https://www.instagram.com/laylajaglovs/. “This book is…” Instagram, 22 Feb 2017, https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ0YKbABkd6/.