Friday, March 20, 2009

Art And Lies, by Jeanette Winterson

(hb; 1994)

From the inside flap:

"The novel brings together three apparently disparate figures on a single day in a single place -- a high-speed train hurtling through the present and near-future (though the book itself ranges freely over the centuries). Handel is an ex-priest turned surgeon, a man whose humanity has been sacrificed to intellect. Picasso, a young woman cast out by the family that drove her to madness, is comforted only her painting. And Sappho is the famed lesbian poet of antiquity, as alive as her immortal verse. Each is at once beguilingly symbolic and painfully real, alienated from a brutal technological world and united by Winterson's narrative, which directs them towards a single end of satisfying inevitability. . ."


Art And Lies defies genre categorization. It zips between three distinctive voices (Sappho, the ghostly sensualist; Handel, the sad lonely surgeon; Picasso, the angst-ridden female painter). These voices are buoyed by dark literary wit and time shifts, as well as political, sexual and sociological musings, with an eye towards history, past and future.

So intense and condensed are the explosive ideas in this novel, I often had to re-read many passages to make sure I "got" everything Winterson put on the page. I didn't (that's okay), as Art And Lies is so multi-layered and complex.

This is a literary firebomb that forces the reader to think about what's important in all aspects of his/her life.

If you're looking for a comfy feel-good read, avoid this. If you want to challenge yourself to an intriguing and original work, check this out.

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