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Boating for Beginners – Jeanette Winterson



Posted September 3, 2016 by

Reviewed by: Michael Sympson          Date: 19 September 2001

If you read the author’s remarks on her own webpage, then “Boating for Beginners” is supposed to be a pot-boiler, written for the money in the time of dearth before her “Oranges are not the only Fruit” finally saw the light of day. Should this be true, then Ms. Winterson is even a greater talent than I had given her credit for. The book is a riot, truly funny, over the mantelpiece looms Voltaire’s scathing sarcasm. Of course there are some purely British insider jokes, and since we are at it let’s give the media a bit of a flak too. It is the wonderful world of glittering tears and hallelujah-burgers from Genesis all the way to the latest televangelists. Praise the Lord! (And it is true: you CAN get your orgasms in a supermarket.)

Ms. Winterson sparkles with angular twists and turns and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ideas and jabs, but to the readers pleasant surprise, it all falls into place, and a real story among “real” people develops characters we recognize, even in this warped apparition from a parallel universe. Talent, fantasy and the language, if an author has this – and Ms. Winterson has it in abundance – then even potboilers turn out to be a delight to read; in fact it may even turn out better than more ambitious projects where an author can be a tat too conscious of what she or he is trying to do. (Yes, you guessed it, I am thinking of Ms. Winterson’s “Gut Symmetries.”) For the seeker of “profound ideas”: the book develops the premise: “What would happen if we took Northrop Frye seriously and used his method as a prescription of how to write narratives?”

Need I say more?

Anyway: it is a pleasure to look into the workings of a rare talent. If this book really had been produced in such a haste, as Ms. Winterson claims, than it is the most transparent sample from her workshop so far – and I must say, the most appealing, despite her tremendous “Sexing the Cherry.” If you like Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker,” then you are in for a treat, because this here is way better, and a good starting point to explore Ms. Winterson’s work. Thing is: the book is only sporadically available in the US. and Winterson”s own US-publisher doesn”t even mention its existence. Why? You tell me!

What a shame.

Boating for Beginners – Jeanette Winterson – 1985


ReadLit Team


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