The World and Other Places: Stories, 1986-1999


In this, her first collection of short stories, Jeanette Winterson reveals all the facets of her extraordinary imagination. Whether transporting us to bizarre new geographies -- a world where sleep is illegal, an island of diamonds where the rich wear jewellery made of coal -- or recalling the joy and pain of owning a brand-new dog, Winterson proves herself a master of the short form. In prose that is almost tactile, full of imagery and word play, she creates worlds that are at once familiar yet shockingly ...
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In this, her first collection of short stories, Jeanette Winterson reveals all the facets of her extraordinary imagination. Whether transporting us to bizarre new geographies -- a world where sleep is illegal, an island of diamonds where the rich wear jewellery made of coal -- or recalling the joy and pain of owning a brand-new dog, Winterson proves herself a master of the short form. In prose that is almost tactile, full of imagery and word play, she creates worlds that are at once familiar yet shockingly strange. For anyone who has been moved by Jeanette Winterson's novels, The World and Other Places is essential reading: a grand celebration of Winterson's gifts that spans her entire literary career.
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Editorial Reviews

Baltimore Sun
A brilliant collection. . .speculative, philosophical and surreal. . . . You will fall in love with this writer.
Boston Book Review
Like a literary periscope scanning island after island in the sea of Winterson's imagination.
Boston Globe
That Winterson is an original and important writer is surely by now beyond question. . . . One of the pleasures of this collection is that it allows the reader to map the gradual evolution of her writing.
Eric Lorberer
Fans of Jeanette Winterson's laconic prose will find much to enjoy in this author's first collection of short fiction. Culling stories from the last twelve years, this book shows that Winterson can sculpt her sentences precisely in the short form as she does in the novel. Winterson directs these stories to her readers with unerring aim.
The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Lambda Book Report
The World and Other Places, Winterson's new short story collections, promises more linguistic and conceptual intrigue to riddle the reader and ensure that she thinks hard before turning the page. These stories are more than just a set of clever show-off literary gymanastics: they have the staying power inherent in all good literature.
Los Angeles Times
Winterson is a grand warrior. . .a modern writer, a modern thinker. . . . Her images are fantastic.
Robert L. Pela
The wryly amusing fable The Three Friends and the sexually inventive The Poetics of Sex along with 15 other tales make a convincing case for the continuing health of Winterson's talent. This is storytelling at its most visceral and affecting.
The Advocate
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The detached awareness of Winterson's characters, with their biblically informed psyches and receptivity to the paranormal, make the 17 stories of this collection more proverbial than narrative. When in her acknowledgments Winterson (Gut Symmetries) thanks those who have "bought or bludgeoned" them from her, she's quite right: there's nothing fulsome here. Her spare gestures reduce prose to an eerie elemental state. In "The 24-Hour Dog," the narrator's encounter with a two-month-old puppy purchased from a farmer transports her: "The Sistine Chapel is unpainted, no book has been written. There is the moon, the water, the night, one creature's need and another's response. The moment between chaos and shape and I say his name and he hears me." In other stories, such as "O'Brien's First Christmas," the alien intrudes in the form of a midnight visitation by a tutued fairy on a downcast shopgirl. The feminist allegory "Orion" recasts the myth of Artemis and her predatory paramour; "Disappearance I" imagines a futuristic dystopia in which sleep has become as taboo as red light sex. Though the aftertaste of this unflinchingly provocative and stringently witty collection is somewhat bitter, Winterson's stories reveal another facet of a writer much acclaimed for her virtuosity and complexity. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This work collects stories written over a 13-year period by Whitbread and E.M. Forster Award winner Winterson. A hallmark of her fiction is the avoidance of gender pronouns, resulting in a gender fluidity that permits a subversive reading of the seemingly conventional love story "O'Brien's First Christmas." "Orion" is a feminist retelling of the origin of the constellation; as expected, a tale of female victimization becomes one of revenge and empowerment. "The Poetics of Sex" is a graphic tale of passion between two women interspersed with condescending questions typically asked of lesbians. Winterson's afterword is instructive; part of the pleasure of reading the title story is imagining the bafflement of the editors of an American Express travel magazine, who, offended by her irony, refused to publish it. The stories are challenging and beautifully crafted, ranging from realistic to fantastical. Recommended for most collections.--Ina Rimpau, Newark P.L., NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Astringently playful stories, written over 12 years, by the Whitbread Award-winning British novelist (Gut Symmetries, 1997, etc.). Though this first collection is brief, its author's talent isn't. Winterson's appetite for social criticism mingles confidently with her lyrical instinct to give us savagely rhythmic portraits of people lost in lives they'd much rather not have to inhabit. "This is the story of Tom," begins the tale "Newton," following Tom through a tight-lipped rant about the pitfalls of dwelling in a suburb whose diabolically conformist code of etiquette impels its non-hero to conceal "my Camus in the fridge." (Of a neighbor who discovers it there: " `Who is Albert K Mew?' She pronounced it like an enraged cat.") While Winterson attacks righteous insiders, she also batters-persuasively-anomalous Tom and his ilk for the fecklessness of his chosen alienation. In other stories, the balance shifts toward seductive evocation and away from the author's tendency to travesty almost any convention. With "Turn of the World," for instance, Winterson revises the fairy-tale genre by invoking the evolution of four islands. Her closing words are fleetly sensuous, if punctuated by wry observation: "Naturally enough this island is stocked with lions The lions are ruthless as money. The gold is snap-jawed." Although usually acerbically intelligent, her fiction is also capable of giving itself up entirely to sensory lavishness, as in "The Poetics of Sex," a revel whose sections are framed by mischievous subtitles ("Were You Born a Lesbian?"). Winterson's yen for invention can as readily regale us with the details of an Edenic puppyhood ("The 24-Hour Dog") as skewer Yuletide urges("O'Brien's First Christmas"). Best of all, she seems willing to risk being misunderstood for the sake of taking choice imaginative lunges. Neither "realistic" nor "surrealistic," but work that oddly alchemizes the virtues of both. .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375402401
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/22/1999
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 7.84 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Read an Excerpt

I said there were three things. The third was a woman in the park with her dog. The dog was young. The woman was old. Every so often she took out a bottle of water and a little bowl and gave the dog a drink.

'Come on Sandy,' she'd say, when he'd finished, and they would both disappear into the bushes, the dog's tail bobbing behind.

She was poor, I could see that. Put us side by side and how do we look? I'm six feet tall in a smart airman's uniform and I have a strong grip and steady eyes. She's about five feet high and threadbare. I could lift her with one hand.

But when she met my gaze one day I dropped my eyes and blushed like a teenager. I was walking past her in the opposite direction and I smiled and said, 'How are you?'

She looked at me with eyes that have long since pierced through the cloud cover and as we talked, I realised she was happy. Happy. The kind of happiness that comes from a steadiness inside. This was genuine. This was not someone who had turned away from the bolted door. It was open. She was on the other side.

For some years, early in my Air Force days, I did not bother myself with the single simple question that is the hardest in the world. How shall I live? I was living wasn't I? I was adventure, manliness, action. That's how we define ourselves isn't it?

Then one day I awoke with the curious sensation of no longer being myself. I hadn't turned into a beetle or a werewolf and my friends treated me in the same way as before. I put on my favourite well-worn clothes, bought newspapers, took a holiday, went to Milan, walked in the park. At last I called on the doctor.

'Doctor I'm not myself anymore.'

He asked me about my sex life and prescribed acourse of antidepressants.

I went to the library and borrowed books from the philosophy and psychology sections, terrified in case I should be spotted by someone who knew me. I read Jung who urged me to make myself whole. I read Lacan who wants me to accept that I'm not.

None of it helped me. All the time I thought crazily, 'If this isn't me then I must be somewhere else.'

That's when I started travelling so much, left the forces, bought my own plane. Mostly I teach flying now, and sometimes I take out families who have won the First Prize in a packet soup competition. It doesn't matter. I have plenty of free time and I do what I need to do, which is to look for myself.

I know that if I fly for long enough, for wide enough, for far enough, I'll catch a signal on the radar that tells me there's another aircraft on my wing. I'll glance out of the reinforced glass, and it won't be a friendly pilot that I'll see, all stubble and brown eyes. It will be me. Me in the cockpit of that other plane.

I went home to visit my mother and father. I flew over their village, taxied down their road and left the nose of my plane pushed up against the front door. The tail was just on the pavement and I was worried that some traffic warden might issue a ticket for obstruction, so I hung a sign on the back that said 'flying doctor.'

I'm always nervous about going home, just as I am nervous about rereading books that have meant a lot to me.

My parents wanted me to tell them about the places I've been and what I've seen, their eyes were eager and full of life.

Bombay. Cairo. Paris. New York. We have invented them so many times that to tell the truth will be a disappointment. The blow-up globe still hangs over the mantelpiece, its plastic crinkly and torn. The countries of the Common Market are held together with red tape.

We went through my postcards one by one. I gave them presents; a sari for my mother and a Stetson for my father. They are the children now.

Time passes through the clock. It's time for me to leave. They come outside to wave me off.

'It's a lovely plane,' says my mother. 'Does it give you much trouble?'

I rev the engine and the neighbours stand in astonishment in their doorways as the plane gathers speed down our quiet road. A moment before the muzzle breaks through the apostal window in the church, I take off, rising higher and higher, and disappearing into the end stream of the sun.

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