the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

quotes: winterson on writing

Posted by rigorousm on July 15, 2011

WINTERSON – Writing sermons is very good discipline because you have a limited amount of time and a chosen subject, and you have to convince your audience. And if you fail, you fail—I mean, you can see you’ve failed by looking out at them. So it teaches you a particular economy of style. It not only teaches you tricks of the trade, of ordinary rhetoric and how to use language for a very specific purpose to make sure that you are saying exactly what you want to say, but also to use images and symbols. One of the good things, I think, about the Christian faith is that it draws on such a wealth of images and symbols, which even the least church-minded of us still recognizes. We are two thousand years of Western Christianity. That’s in our body and our blood, which is partly why the symbolism of the East, although it expresses the same truths just as well, doesn’t work for us quite as it ought to. You have to have your own symbols and myths to express your collective past. That’s why I am a bit dubious about ransacking the East, as we’re so fond of doing at the moment, because there is something rather desperate and also rather faddish in it, as though we feel that we’ve made redundant all our own pictures and metaphors, which is simply not true. They still have that depth charge; I think it is a question of writers using them.  

… the narrative function of the novel has been overtaken and done much better now by television and cinema. For instance, when photography was invented, a great many painters thought that they would be out of a job, and a great many of them were. But not painters like Picasso, who rejoiced in photography and took a lot of pictures himself, who thought that this would lead to a new freedom for painters because they would no longer have to represent what was there. Instead, they could paint much more subjectively and, as he thought, more honestly. They would no longer be bound to the narrative of fact. Now I can’t see why for us as writers it shouldn’t be the same thing. If television and cinema can mop up that need for narrative drive, for life as it is lived, for a picture of the everyday, then great! Let it. Because it is a function and people need it, that should free up words into something far more poetic, something about the inner life, the imaginative life …  .

… Well, there are only three possible endings—aren’t there?—to any story: revenge, tragedy or forgiveness. That’s it. All stories end like that. There aren’t any that don’t. I suppose it depends temperamentally on which ones you want to choose.

Jeanette Winterson interviewed by Audrey Bilger, Paris Review,  Art of Fiction 150


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