The World and Other Places by Jeanette Winterson

I keep hearing Jeanette Winterson mentioned by trusworthy sources as being worth reading but I’ve never read any of her books until now. I came across this collection of short stories at the used bookstore and figured I’d give it a try. On the whole, I didn’t really like it, though I grant that Winterson is an able and inventive craftswoman.

The stories alternate between mythic flights of fancy and pointed, sometimes clever, sometimes bombastic critiques of contemporary culture and society. The move between the two can be jarring and while her vividly-imagined alternate worlds are occasionally breathtaking, I think it’s her social criticism that is more successful on the whole.

I do love some of her turns of phrase. Like when she describes a woman who “drifted away from me, her dress clinging to her like a drowned man.” When the narrator of a different story is stuck on a bus that has broken down Winterson writes: “Second hour: traffic jam. All drivers the colour of raspberries. Tried to make eyes at a strawberry blonde.” But it’s almost too sweet, too studied, too coy.

It may be a technically strong collection, but I also know that I won’t remember it 3 months from now.



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