Sunday, September 10, 2006

good books make me happy

I'm sure I've said it here before: I love Jeanette Winterson. Every time I read one of her books, I think, "Damn, I wish I had written that." The woman is a genius who has heartbreaking control over language and knowledge. I usually claim Art and Lies as my favorite of her novels, but I love them all and some days my favorite is Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, some days it's Written on the Body (though I understand that some of her other devoted fans claim that to be their least favorite). Yesterday I finished reading one of her more recent novels, Lighthousekeeping, which was beautiful and will also be--on some days--my favorite.

The setting is mostly a lighthouse in western Scotland (and occasionally Bristol, England). It's a story about stories, about storytelling and life...and how they intertwine or are at times the same thing. I love this novel for the same reason I love all her work: because I love her words, her characters, her settings, her stories. But also because sometimes I'm certain she has been rummaging around inside my head and knows how to write just what I need to read at any given moment. Her themes and topics in Lighthousekeeping feel eerily relevant to me right now. The topic of storytelling as part of a cultural inheritance is always interesting to me, and I love how in this book she ties that to the struggles in understanding, taking control of, and finding happiness in one's own life. In this, she deals with new beginnings, the hardships and neccessity of occasionally starting over in life. And in telling the stories of your life.

So here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book (I won't include any that are too rooted in context to make any sense out of context; these here are just to exemplify some of the concepts dealt with in the book):

"Tell me a story, Pew.
What kind of story, child?
A story with a happy ending.
There's no such thing in all the world.
As a happy ending?
As an ending."

"We are lucky, even the worst of us, because daylight comes."

"If you can tell yourself like a story, it doesn't seem so bad."

"Tell me a story, Pew.
What story, child?
One that begins again.
That's the story of life.
But is it the story of my life?
Only if you tell it."

"The continuous narrative of existence is a lie. There is no continuous narrative, there are lit-up moments and the rest is dark."

"It's better if I think of my life like that--part miracle, part madness. It's better if I accept that I can't control any of the things that matter. My life is a trail of shipwrecks and set-sails. There are no arrivals, no destinations; there are only sandbanks and shipwreck; then another boat, another tide."

"Part broken part whole, you begin again."

"I'll call you, and we'll light a fire, and drink some wine, and recognise each other in the place that is ours. Don't wait. Don't tell the story later."

"The rest of my life. I have never rested, always run, run so fast that the sun can't make a shadow. Well, here I am--mid-way, lost in a dark wood--this selva oscura, without a torch, a guide, or even a bird."

"Darwin said something to me once for which I was grateful. I had been trying to forget, trying to stop my mind reaching for a place where it can never home. He knew my agitation, though he did not know its cause, and he took me up to Am Parbh--the Turning Point, and with his hand on my shoulder, he said, 'Nothing can be forgotten. Nothing can be lost. The universe itself is one vast memory system. Look back and you will find the beginnings of the world.'"

I'd love to suggest this book for the book group when it's my turn to choose again (which won't be for another few months). For next month, however, we are going to read The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards. I know nothing about it, but I'm going to pick it up tomorrow and get started. The reviews are mixed, but I'll keep an open mind.


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