Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Love and loss and Jeanette Winterson

Some thoughts, a bit disconnected, since reading Jeanette Winterson's memoir.

I finished reading Jeanette Winterson's brilliant memoir last night. Why be happy when you could be normal? is the kind of book you want to buy for everyone you know. The kind of book that you want to read out loud from, underline, fold corners on all the pages and passages you need to go back to. You need to spend a bit of time not reading another book when you've finished it, so you can really feel it, digest it, respect it. That's how it got me anyway.

I finished it in the bath, the water almost cold. I got out, went to the living room and demanded why my boyfriend hadn't come to see if I was okay. I'd been gone a while. 'I could have drowned!' I exclaimed. I was being playful. I realised I was also being myself at 4 years old, indignant that my Mum hadn't told me I was going to be at school all day for the first time - she thought it'd be better to just, you know, let the day unfold. Up until then I'd just been there for the morning. So all the other kids were crying on their way in, and I had no idea. When she came to pick me up, I stood on the steps of the classroom, my hands on my hips, and - well, I guess the word is exclaimed - 'You left me here ALL DAY! I've had my dinner AND EVERYTHING!'

Jeanette talks a lot about love, how she has had to learn to both love and be loved. My Mum said it all the time. Often it was just used as a greeting or a goodbye, or a goodnight, or while we were watching TV or hanging out the washing, or whatever. Love you; you too. I miss that easiness, I don't think it's ever as easy as that again.

I've always been a bit preoccupied with identity. Reading this book has made me think about it a bit more, how you define yourself, or let yourself be defined. I am always impressed by people who don't define themselves. Who live outside of their ego. I have been thinking, for the past 3 years since my Mum died, about myself as parent-less. It does change something. But I don't want it to define me. It's important, I am working my way through it, as millions are, have done, will do.

But I am not going to use it. I think some people use their bad experiences as bricks to build their identities with. I am interested in those who refuse to do this. I think Jeanette is one of those people.


martine said...

Thanks for this, I like your review because you said so little about the book but only your reaction to it, and I always feel that good books give a strong reaction. I picked it up in the book shop the other day and presented it to my daughter just because I thought the title would amuse her, though she bought something else in the end. Will get it from the library instead.
best wishes

Carole Anne Carr said...

Having read the bitterness in her novels, and her attempt to commit suicide, I'm very pleased she is moving on and is able to help others.

Teresa Stenson said...

Hi Martine - yes, do get it, do do do! Sorry, I'm being pushy.

Hi Carole - yes, I think she broke down and has built herself up again - 'the mind wants to heal itself' - maybe paraphrased, but she does say that. I just like her, I like her directness, her style.