Gut Symmetries by Jeanette Winterson
Relation to Orange Prize: longlisted in 1997
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
While I love her writing as always, this is not my favorite Jeanette Winterson. That honor still belongs to Written on the Body or The Powerbook. It is funny because both of those books have less plot than Gut Symmetries, but I think it is some of the plot in this book that made me enjoy it less.
The story focuses on three people - Alice, a theoretical physicist, who has an affair with Jove, and then also his wife Stella. Each chapter is told from a different perspective, with the title of a tarot card, and some chapters even focus on telling the stories of the parents of the three. I think that and
Still, the language is gorgeous. The quotations I've typed up are just more to demonstrate that side of it.
"I know I am a fool, trying to make connections out of scraps but how else is there to proceed? The fragmentariness of life makes coherence suspect but to babble is a different kind of treachery. Perhaps it is a vanity. Am I vain enough to assume you will understand me? No. So I go on puzzling over new joints for words...."
"I know I am a fool, hoping dirt and glory are both a kind of luminous paint; the humiliations and exaltations that light us up... I cannot assume you will understand me. It is just as likely that as I invent what I want to say, you will invent what you want to hear. Some story we must have. Stray words on crumpled paper. A weak signal into the outer space of each other. The probability of separate worlds meeting is very small. The lure of it is immense. We send starships. We fall in love."
Ah, her language! This one made me laugh, because it passes by before you realize what has been said:
"Inevitably it is not only the gastric juices that are stimulated by luxury and fresh air. What could be nicer than preprandial fellatio in a foreign tongue?"
"When we killed what we were to become what we are, what did we do with the bodies? We did what most people do; buried them under the floorboards and got used to the smell. I've lived my life as a serial killer; finish with one part, strangle it and move on to the next. Life in neat little boxes is life in neat little coffins, the dead bodies of the past laid out side by side. I am discovering, now, in the late afternoon of the day, that the dead still speak."
"I do not want to declare love on you... I would love you as a bird loves flight, as meat loves salt, as a dog loves chase, as water finds its own level. Or I would not love you at all."
"The surprise of wings was this love. We did escape gravity. If I flew too close to the sun, forgive me."
"Whatever it is that pulls the pin, that hurls you past the boundaries of your own life into a brief and total beauty, even for a moment, it is enough."
I have another unread Winterson at home that I hope to read this year, and I am eagerly anticipating her autobiography, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? that is supposed to come out in March. She is one of my top three favorite authors of all time, and I'd recommend her to anyone!