Friday, December 15, 2006

Reader's Diary #203- Jeanette Winterson: Lighthousekeeping (Up to "That day in the lighthouse")


Much to the chagrin of some of our book club members, it is Lighthousekeeping not Light Housekeeping.
Jeanette Winterson's Lighthousekeeping is essentially a story about stories. It's told in a quirky, almost fable-like way. It has eccentric, larger-than-life characters, stories and personalities are revealed almost like the unravelling of a mystery, and the sole theme, stories, is always at the forefront. This last issue made me nervous. Would it become too obvious? Too preachy? One of the themes of Three Day Road was story-telling as well, but I liked that Boyden didn't force his theories. Winterson absolutely does force it. Take the following dialogue:

"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."

or this line,
"A beginning, a middle, and an end is the proper way to tell a story. But I have
difficulty with that method."
Furthermore, when Winterson presents them so matter-of-factly, it almost makes her seem cocky in her convictions, as if she is throwing out a brand new idea. But they are not! The idea that stories have no real beginnings or endings has been explored innumerable times. There's a scene in Forrest Gump when there's a recounting of all the Gumps that had gone before Forrest. In Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky has characters living through WWII who reflect about life during WWI. My point is that finding a movie, a book, a song, etc that says that history repeats itself, that events throughout time are connected through cause and effect, and will probably continue to do so, is not a difficult task.
Likewise, the divergence from stories with a "beginning, a middle, and an end" seems to me to be almost becoming the norm. I know in Canada if an author writes a straightforward, chronologically told story, there's a good chance s/he will be lambasted by the critics. (Make it from a single view point and we're likely to reinstate capital punishment.)
Basically, I think Winterson's points are not subtle enough and a little tired. Yet...
For all of this, I'm enjoying it. No, it may not be the cleverest of books (despite what you may have heard), but I'm still having a good time reading it. The characters are interesting and the tapestry is woven well. Often there are puns and tongue-in-cheek metaphors that keep it fun and while I read a few critics that praised her for being poetic, I'd say maybe just Poetry-Lite.

3 comments:

John Mutford said...

I'm getting very pissed off with Blogger. They seemed to have insisted that I switch to beta. But since then the only benefit I've seen is the faster publishing times and the spell checker. However, the drawbacks have been many:
1. People have trouble commenting
2. I can't leave a simple line break between paragraphs (without coding it in, which you'll notice I haven't bothered to do).
3. A blogroll that I belonged to is no longer automatically pinged when I write a new post.

Frustrating. Maybe it's not related to the beta switch but it seems to a big coincidence if it is not. Then again, I'm pretty ignorant of how the whole thing works. I'm going back to VHS. (Okay, maybe not that ignorant).

barbara the non-switcher said...

Hmmm, larger than life characters and personalities somehow reminds me of a Jack Hodgins book. Any sort of connection there?

I am never switching to beta!

John Mutford said...

Barbara, Once again you've stumped me. I am unfamiliar with Hodgins. I just read up on him at Wikipedia though. How do I miss such people?

Anyway, I obviously don't know a connection. But I do know that I've yet another author to read.