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The Passion
by Jeanette Winterson


Literary Fiction and Classics Editor's Recommended Book 
In 1985 Jeanette Winterson won the Whitbread Award for best
first fiction for the semi-autobiographical Oranges Are Not
the Only Fruit, an often wry exploration of lesbian
possibility bumping up against evangelical fanaticism. She
was 25. Two years later, The Passion, her third novel,
appeared, the fantastical tale of Henri--Napoleon's cook--
and Villanelle, a Venetian gondolier's daughter who has
webbed feet (previously an all-male attribute), works as a
croupier, picks pockets, cross-dresses, and literally loses
her heart to a beautiful woman. Written in a lyrical and
jolting combination of fairy tale diction and rhythm and the
staccato, the book would be a risky proposition in lesser
hands. Winterson has said that she wanted to look at people's
need to worship and examine what happens to young men in
militaristic societies. The question was, how to do so without
being polemical and didactic? Only she could have come up with
such an exquisite answer. In the end, Henri, incarcerated on
an island of madmen, becomes aware that his passion, "even
though she could never return it, showed me the difference
between inventing a lover and falling in love. The one is
about you, the other about someone else." 



 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (1 of 10), Read 43 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, September 10, 1999 12:01 PM The Passion by Jeannette Winterson I thought I would post on this early, since I'm going to be packing and doing other stuff for some trip I'm taking on the 16th. I know some of you have at least started it. If any of you haven't, it's a book that can be finished in a couple of sittings--take it on the plane to Seattle. It's a very quick read. The Passion is narrated by two very interesting characters. I especially like Villanelle. (Remember when some of us tried our hand at villanelles, a form of poetry?) I loved the descriptions of Venice, the disguises, the churches that seem to change or relocate overnight, the idea of “basking” in church. Many compare Winterson to Marquez, but I think that's such an easy comparison to make. She definitely has her own style. It is clear as a bell and beautiful. I liked the way she brought back certain sentences, especially: “You play, you win, you play, you lose. You play.” The theme of gambling with something dear was carried throughout the chapters. I enjoyed the “passions” that excited the different characters. Some were dangerous, some were very very quiet, revealing the dichotomy of the two main characters. She loved the night, he loved the day. This is a novel I could start reading all over again right now. Sherry
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (2 of 10), Read 33 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, September 11, 1999 03:51 PM This is a strange little book. I finished it last night, and I'm not sure what I think. Generally, I don't much go for books that are told in this "telling a fable" tone of voice, I feel distanced from the characters. The book reminds me somewhat of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, though it's been years and years since I read O, and I may be completely off base here. Like Sherry, I enjoyed the Venetian sections best. Henri and Villanelle (now what is the significance of that name?) each withdrew from their own true passion. What do any of you think is the significance of that? Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (3 of 10), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, September 12, 1999 08:46 AM Ruth, I saw a couple of major themes in this book. First, as an exploration of passion in its many different guises--not just romantic love, but in war, in gambling, in religion, even in madness. Also, it's about the price which must be paid to achieve passion--the loss of one's heart, the loss of humanity, of treasured possessions, even of freedom and reason. I think you're right that Villanelle was not willing to pay the price of her passion, and withdrew from it. But I'm not sure about Henri. Did he withdraw from his "true" passion, or substitute a different one for which he was willing to pay the price? David
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (4 of 10), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, September 12, 1999 12:20 PM David, I like your idea about Henri's passion. His was a quiet passion, quite the opposite of the one(s) of Villanelle. He came to recognize the misplacement of his love for Napoleon and was able to write and be quiet and be immersed in his inner world. That was his passion and he embraced it. Sherry
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (5 of 10), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, September 12, 1999 03:44 PM When I said Henri withdrew from his passion, I was referring to his passion for Villanelle, not Napoleon. Is that what you were referring to, David? Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (6 of 10), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, September 12, 1999 05:08 PM Ruth, I was referring to both of Henri's former passions, to his disillusionment with Napoleon as well as Villanelle's inability to reciprocate his passion for her. His final passion comes at a great cost, but it is the one he feels most able to bear. David
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (7 of 10), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, September 12, 1999 09:23 PM The writing in this book is brilliant. I have been buying too many books lately that I will probably never look at again, so I checked this one out of the library. Major error. Had I bought it, I would have ended up underlining parts of almost every page, which is what I tend to do when the words are so perceptive or striking that I want to own them. This is a book that is definitely worth rereading. The style of this book reminds me of Jose Saramago's BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA. Each is a kind of love story with an historical setting and characters from the common people. The characters' emotions often take concrete and very literal forms (i.e. to lose one's heart), which is, I guess, typical of magical realism. The lyricism and originality of the writing are very striking in both cases. Villanelle is definitely the most vibrant of the two main characters in THE PASSION. As soon as she appears on the scene in Russia she completely overshadows Henri. She is so much stronger, so much more dramatic. But, in that last chapter, Henri won back my total allegiance and his is the story which echoes in my mind. I would like to suggest that Villanelle was capable of great passion, but that what Henri felt for her was not passion, but something more valuable -- love. For Villanelle, passion is only possible with danger. Passion is between fear and sex, we are told in one of Winterson's many arresting refrains. Passion is like gambling and entails the risk of great loss, but that is what makes it exciting, that is what makes it worthwhile. The thrill is in the game itself. "You see, I like passion, I like to be among the desperate," Villanelle tells the reader. Henri, on the other hand is a far more gentle soul. In most respects, the usual sexual roles are reversed with these two characters. Villanelle is much more highly sexed than Henri, who has never had a woman before her. She craves danger and excitement. Henri learns early to value friendship and personal relations. He spends eight years as a cook with Napoleon's troops, but never kills anyone until he becomes involved with Villanelle. In the end, he sacrifices himself for her and refuses escape because he cannot bear to be parted from her -- nor from the ghosts of the people he loved. He doesn't ask anything of Villanelle, only to be near. Maybe his is just a passion of another kind, but it seems to be the more selfless variety we generally term "love." Ann
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (8 of 10), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, September 13, 1999 06:38 AM Ann, the distinction you make between love and passion in this novel makes it even more of an eye-opener. How often the two are assumed to be identical! I'm going to have to digest that one quite a bit. David
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (9 of 10), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, September 13, 1999 08:59 AM Ann: My brain is still echoing from the line, "I like passion; I like to be among the desperate." By golly, if that doesn't have the ring of truth. I agree also re: quality of Winterson's writing. Absolutely a tour de force of prose style, underlying these big ideas. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (10 of 10), Read 11 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, September 13, 1999 08:49 PM I just finished this lovely little book, and I loved it. I was interested in the historical setting as well as the story of Henri and Villanelle. The passion theme seems to explain Napoleon's success with the French people,in spite of his great losses. Of course, this is over-simplification considering that Napoleon laid the basis from modern France and that he is admired for doing so. Even Henri mentions that Napoleon liked to build straight roads. I thought that the first "passion" mentioned in the book was quite funny. "It was Napoleon who had such a passion for chicken that he kept his chefs working around the clock." I think that Henri's final feelings for Villanelle were a passion bordering on obsession. He preferred madness to trying to live in the outside world. She would have accepted Henri as a brother, and then he could have been near Villanelle and the child. It was all or nothing for him. There is a beautiful passage at the end that I am considering reading at our convention this week. Jane
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (11 of 27), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (fdlx59b@prodigy.com) Date: Thursday, September 16, 1999 07:11 AM I am not quite finished, but I am thoroughly enjoying the writing in this book. There are several themes worth discussing, one was mentioned by David: the loss of one's heart. In this case, the heart is something separate from the body. This depiction is true for both Henri and Villanelle. There's a wonderful passage, told from Henri's view, of how all the soldiers have made a pyre of their own hearts. This subject of passion is also not what I expected. It seems to me that in addition to the love-passion, there is also the hate-passion. I still have a few pages left, but this seems to be the kind of book I'll read a second time. MAP
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (12 of 27), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Saturday, September 18, 1999 03:58 PM I just finished this one today too. My brother has been recommending Winterson to me for some time, but so far I had only read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, her first. He told me that her later writing was far superior to that one and I must say that I agree. Throughout the book, Passion refers to strong, intense feeling, whether it be love, sex, hate, gambling addiction, need for power, etc. I loved the exploration of this because it is a fascinating area. Most of us moderate our feelings to survive, but passion doesn't always yield to practicality. I think Henri expressed it best in reference to love when he said, "To love someone else enough to forget about yourself even for one moment is to be free." Barb
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (13 of 27), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, September 19, 1999 09:26 AM Barb & All: I'm enjoying THE PASSION very much. Seeing as I'm less than halfway through, this comment could be premature, but... Am I alone in not seeing the Gabriel Garcia-Marquez comparison some reviewer says is "inevitable"? Beautiful writing is beautiful writing, but so far I don't see in THE PASSION any operation of "magical realism." There are some fanciful ideas and legends, some of daily life's absurdities, and tales like the guy who claims the leprechauns shrank his shoes, but to me it's all happening in a "real" universe. Am I overlooking something, or is the second half of the book about to ambush me and prove me wrong? >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (14 of 27), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, September 19, 1999 10:36 AM Dale: I suppose I should just consult a book, but I'm not at the library today and feel a bit lazy anyway. So, what are we talking about with magical realism? I imagine you can probably go on for a book or two, but twenty-five words or less will do. David, abjectly displaying his ignorance
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (15 of 27), Read 40 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, September 19, 1999 11:08 AM David: Well, now. Magical realism (alternately, "magic" realism). Here's what the ol' encyclopedia says... *** Magic Realism Primarily Latin American literary movement that arose in the 1960s. Magic realist writers mingle realistic portrayals of events and characters with elements of fantasy and myth, creating a world that is at once familiar and dreamlike. Its best-known proponent is the Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, notably in his One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). Other magic realist writers include Guatemala's Miguel Ńngel Asturias, Argentina's Julio Cortazar, and Mexico's Carlos Fuentes; non-Latin American writers include Italo Calvino and Salman Rushdie. *** Personally, that version is a bit vague for me. Also, I've only heard magical realism used in regard to works of fiction, but just now I ran across another article that says the paintings of Magritte fall into that category. I don't think "realistic portrayals mingled with fantasy and myth" nails down much at all, since that could stretch to any work in which fantasy, myth, or legend is referred to...in other words, a couple gazillion titles. There are a number of Americans working in the form, too: Jeffrey Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides) and Alice Hoffman (Illumination Night and 6-7 others) being two that come to mind. (Other than myself, which modesty prevents me from mentioning.{G} More than one reviewer pegged my first novel The Shining Shining Path as "Southern magical realism.") Let me mull on this and get back to you. Would also like to know what Ruth and others think about the term being applied to Magritte. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (16 of 27), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, September 19, 1999 01:40 PM Dale, are you in Alabama or Seattle? You didn't miss the get-together, did you? But, on to less important things {G}, I think "magical realism" is becoming a bit of a catch-all. Winterson blends time and levels of consciousness and I suppose that gives her the look of MR. However, I don't find the feel of fantasy (I'm thinking of the butterflies in 100 Years) that I think is essential. Her style is more gritty somehow. And, I could see this same style coming in her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, though not as well done, so I think this is simply her own individual vision. But, who knows? Once people start putting things in a category, there is a lot of reaching that goes on. Barb
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (17 of 27), Read 41 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Diane Freeman (dfreeman@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Sunday, September 19, 1999 02:04 PM As much as any element of magical realism (which I also must confess to missing)is the occasional insertion of a line of comic relief after so much intensity. I grinned when Villanelle describes her mother's slight guilt at her webbed feet because "She hadn't thought of my father since his boat had sunk. She hadn't thought of him much while it was afloat." I seemed to find a number of amusing lines to keep me from being overwhelmed by the power, the passion. About the repetition of "I'm telling you stories. Trust me." I had trouble hearing that in a tone/inflection that felt right. What did you make of it? I was impressed with how much could be packed into such a slim volume. Diane
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (18 of 27), Read 37 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, September 19, 1999 08:55 PM I think the incident with Villanelle's heart definitely qualifies as magical realism. Let me know what you think when you get to it, Dale. Ann
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (19 of 27), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (fdlx59b@prodigy.com) Date: Monday, September 20, 1999 07:20 AM Diane, I am also wondering about that "telling you stories" line. Here's a segment I loved (p.82) from Henri: Take the heart first. Then you don't feel the cold so much. The pain so much. With the heart gone, there's no reason to stay your hand. Your eyes can look on death and not tremble. It's the heart that betrays us, makes us weep, makes us bury our friends when we should be marching ahead. It's the heart that sickens us at night and makes us hate who we are. It's the heart that sings old songs and brings memories of warm days and makes us waver at another mile, another smouldering village. To survive the zero winter and that war we made a pyre of our hearts and put them aside for ever. There's no pawnshop for the heart. You can't take it in and leave it awhile in a clean cloth and redeem it in better times. You can't make sense of your passion for life in the face of death, you can only give up your passion. Only then can you begin to survive... When I say I lived with heartless men, I use the word correctly. There are so many other passages that I could quote, but this notion of the separateness of the heart caught me. And there are other aspects of this book which are just as compelling. MAP
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (20 of 27), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, September 20, 1999 08:36 AM The "I'm telling you stories. Trust me." is one of my favorite motifs for the book. I do not have my copy of the book with me, so I'm going to have to work from memory on these references. This was the third time I read this book. As I read this time, I wrote down some of the phrases I knew would repeat, who said them, and on what page number they occurred. I believe this phrase occurs about 4 times, the first is Henri, the second is Patrick, the third is Villanelle, and I think the 4th is Henri again. The first time the phrase occurs, Henri is talking about war, and the words people use which sound so clean and cover so much of the reality of war. In essence, he's saying what he's relating is closer to the truth than the official story, even though what he's saying may sound fanciful. The second time Patrick says it when he's telling the story about the shrinking boots. Villanelle says it when she tells the story about walking on the canal. I don't remember what's happening the fourth time. re: Magical Realism I read this book this time around immediately after reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. I personally made a connection right away, which is not a big surprise! Particularly the parts which occur in Venice after Henri and Villanelle return from the war felt magically real or really magical to me. The idea of a living city, constantly changing and always new; the description of the ghostly churches; Villanelle recapturing her heart; the reality/unreality of the people Henri talks to in prison; Villanelle walking on water (which occurs twice). Karen
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (21 of 27), Read 37 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (fdlx59b@prodigy.com) Date: Monday, September 20, 1999 09:54 AM Another great recurring line, from Villanelle is: "You play, you win, you play, you lose. You play." MAP
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (22 of 27), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, September 20, 1999 10:02 AM MAP: What a beautiful passage from Winterson, re: the heart. Looks like I spoke too soon about not seeing the magical realism aspect; now I'm looking forward to the second half even more. Barb: Yes, the butterflies in One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of the most memorable scenes to me. I can't talk about it (in person, at least) without choking up. Another favorite passage is when the man shoots himself and the blood runs so far down the street, turning corners. I may post it here for anybody who hasn't read OHYS. I agree that the category of magical realism has been stretched pretty wide in recent years, but to me it consists of events happening in a real world which are physically impossible under the laws of Nature, but that "feel" right and proper to the reader's heart in some childlike, even primal way. More on this later; gotta go read the rest of Winterson.{G} >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (23 of 27), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, September 20, 1999 01:36 PM I agree that the category of magical realism has been stretched pretty wide in recent years, but to me it consists of events happening in a real world which are physically impossible under the laws of Nature, but that "feel" right and proper to the reader's heart in some childlike, even primal way. Dale, I really like this definition. Maybe it's not perfectly precise and inclusive, but it sums the matter up in a way that makes sense to me (in a childlike, primal way, if you like). It strikes me as similar to the effect often produced by poetry. David
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (24 of 27), Read 39 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, September 20, 1999 03:38 PM David: Well, thank you. It's good to know I'm not the only primal childlike reader out there.{VBG} >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (25 of 27), Read 28 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Tuesday, September 21, 1999 05:32 PM I'm still trying to formulate my thoughts of this beautiful book, and I appreciate everyone's input so far. The writing lured me in. I loved the repetitive phrases, the types of passion, and the images conjured...I am ready to jump into "100 years of Solitude" now! I read this book while on vacation last week, and feel the need to reread it, at least in parts. There was so much to digest, but many thanks to whomever recommended this book...I never would have read it otherwise! I'll be back soon after a quick skimming over...vacation has a way of wiping out important stuff! Anne
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (26 of 27), Read 27 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, September 21, 1999 06:14 PM Anne, Please file a trip report on the Grand Canyon. I don't think I will ever be ambitious enough to do it myself, but I would really enjoy hearing about it. Ann
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (27 of 27), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Tuesday, September 21, 1999 10:26 PM It seems to me that magical realism is, fantasy written by someone who has not been associated with the fantasy genre. There is a "sort of" stigma associated with the fantasy and science fiction world; it's too easy; not really literate; hack writing, all of that stuff. But fantasy is no different in form. The laws of the universe are bent in some manner that suits the author and his story. The works of Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss are found in the Science Fiction section. The works of Paulo Coelho are found in the Literature section. In both, there are elements of magic. And I recommend both. Maybe one has more science aspects than the other. Lots of maybes. Maybe I would define magical realism as fantasy shelved by the librarian in the literature section. EDD
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (28 of 32), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, September 22, 1999 09:12 AM Edd: I agree 100% with your theory that magical realism is "fantasy shelved by a librarian in the literature section." One of my favorite local bookstores has separate sections for "Fiction" and "Literature." The owner is the one who picks, and 99% of the time I agree with him. Boy, did I speak too soon about the lack of magical realism in THE PASSION. When Villanelle came on the scene, this thing kicked into the stratosphere. At first I regretted having a library copy because I couldn't underline, but finally realized I would be underlining pretty dang near the whole book. What a dazzling experience, to watch such an imagination working at the level of pure invention, so high on the wire, and not falling off. Two of my "underlined" pieces are: Lovers are not at their best when it matters. Mouths dry up, palms sweat, conversation flags and all the time the heart is threatening to fly from the body once and for all. Lovers have been known to have heart attacks. Lovers drink too much from nervousness and cannot perform. They eat too little and faint during their fervently wished consummation. They do not stroke the favoured cat and their face-paint comes loose. This is not all. Whatever you have set store by, your dress, your dinner, your poetry, will go wrong. No joke. I also liked, Travellers at least have a choice. Those who set sail know that things will not be the same as at home. Explorers are prepared. But for us, who travel along the blood vessels, who come to the cities of the interior by chance, there is no preparation. We who were fluent find life is a foreign language. Somewhere between the swamp and the mountains. Somewhere between fear and sex. Somewhere between God and the Devil passion is and the way there is sudden and the way back is worse. I think I can see traces of influence in THE PASSION from the great Italo Calvino. The opening section of "The Queen of Spades," about the architecture of Venice, seems to me a loving tribute to Calvino's INVISIBLE CITIES, a very slim volume which I still tout as one of my all-time favorite pieces of fiction. My hat is off to whoever nominated THE PASSION for this year's list. >>Dale in Ala., dazzled by Winterson's writing and our first chilly morning besides
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (29 of 32), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, September 22, 1999 09:50 AM Those are good ones, Dale. I'm going to be re-reading this book soon, so I can pick up some more of these gems. MAP
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (30 of 32), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, September 22, 1999 03:12 PM Here are two more reasons why Winterson's writing blows me away, both from Henri: I didn't know what hate felt like, not the hate that comes after love. It's huge and desperate and it longs to be proved wrong. And every day it's proved right it grows a little more monstrous. If the love was passion, the hate will be obsession. A need to see the once-loved weak and cowed and beneath pity. Disgust is close and dignity is far away. The hate is not only for the once loved, it's for yourself too; how could you ever have loved this? Ouch! Here's another: We are a lukewarm people and our longing for freedom is our longing for love. If we had the courage to love we would not so value these acts of war. Can you tell I loved this book? I'm hoping our discussion continues indefinitely. MAP
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (31 of 32), Read 17 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, September 22, 1999 06:08 PM You folks are highlighting some of my favorite passages. Dale, Winterson says more than once that passion is between fear and sex. In the "Queen of Spades" chapter, she says the same thing about religion. If I think about some of the famous mystics, I can see it. Here is the quote: In spite of what the monks say, you can meet God without getting up early. You can meet God lounging in the pew. The hardship is a man-made device because man cannot exist without passion. Religion is somewhere between fear and sex. And God? Truly? In his own right, without our voices speaking for him? Obsessed I think, but not passionate. I like the way Winterson unexpectedly ties things together with her repetition, in this case sexual passion and religion. She likes to startle the reader and make him think. There are several passages relating to God and religion which really spoke to me, although the conventionally religious might find them offensive. I can't resist quoting. Villanelle finds comfort in churches and religious ceremonies, although she is not a true believer. She tells the reader: I never go to confession; God doesn't want us to confess, he wants us to challenge him, but for a while I went into our churches because they were built from the heart... I sat at the back, listening to the music or mumbling through the service. I'm never tempted by God but I like his trappings. Not tempted but I begin to understand why others are. Later she describes how she goes to Church during the Christmas season to "bask in the assurance of Our Lord." Basking can't be called holy, but if it achieves the same results will God mind? I don't think so. In the Old Testament the end always justified the means." Wow, that last sentence really strikes me as true, particularly as it relates to the behavior of God himself in the Old Testament. Ann
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (32 of 32), Read 6 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, September 22, 1999 09:28 PM Those are good ones, Ann. I think if you organized some of these favorite quotes by theme we might be amazed how many themes there are. I have something that puzzles me, but it involves a SPOILER: If Villanelle lost her heart to the beautiful woman, why did she have to go to her husband's home to find it? And why did she have to eat her heart to put it back? If these items are part of the mystical realism, I missed something. I hope someone can help me out here. MAP Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (33 of 48), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, September 23, 1999 06:40 AM You all are definitely convincing me on the magical realism category for The Passion. Winterson's way with it just seemed very unique to me. I found myself not wanting to put it in any group. Mary Anne, I may be responding too concretely, but I assumed that Villanelle's heart was in her lover's house because that was where her passion was the strongest and where they spent the most time. It happened to be the husband's house, as well, but that factor was of little importance. And, eating her heart was a particularly graphic way of restoring it to her body. Or, am I missing something? Dale, thanks for reminding me of the blood scene in 100 Years of Solitude. That was definitely genius. Both of these book deserve rereading. Barb Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (34 of 48), Read 28 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Thursday, September 23, 1999 02:02 PM Ann & All: Speaking of Winterson's connecting sex/fear/passion/God/etc. (and speaking of offending the 'conventionally religious')... I once heard Scott Peck give a wonderful lecture (on audiotape) about the connections between sex and Christian mysticism. He quoted from little-known poetry written over the centuries by mystics (largely nuns), and the graphic references are powerful stuff. One in particular I remember is: "Enter me, o God, fill me to the fullest with the battering ram of Thy Love..." Fascinating. I know I checked out the audiotape at our downtown library a couple of years back, but the last time I looked they didn't have it in the catalog. Well worth finding. A real mind-opener, particularly in conjunction with Winterson's spin on the territory. And don't forget the numerous references in the New Testament about the church being "the bride of Christ," and "adorned for her husband." I heard an interesting (and unconventional) sermon on that topic once, too. >>Dale in Ala. Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (35 of 48), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, September 23, 1999 05:30 PM This latest turn of discussion is making me think of my book on the flight over here last November! I was reading The Devils of Louden -- Aldous Huxley. Based on the possession by devils/evil spirits of some nuns in the late 1500's or early 1600's and the ensuing feverish interrogations/exorcisms and so forth and reference to the sexual overtones of the entire ongoing episodes. Dottie ID is an oxymoron! Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (36 of 48), Read 24 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, September 23, 1999 05:31 PM Dale, We were always told the nuns were the brides of Christ -- quite a harem, isn't it? Ann Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (37 of 48), Read 30 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, September 23, 1999 08:55 PM I read pp. 156-157 at the convention because it expresses what I would like to get out of life. This is not a barren place. Villanelle, whose talent is to look at everything twice, taught me to find joy in the most unlikely places and still to be surprised by the obvious. She had a knack of raising your spirits just by saying, 'Look at that,' and that was always an ordinary treasure brought to life. She can even charm fishwives. So I go from my room in the morning and make the journey to the garden very slowly, feeling the walls with my hands, getting a sense of surface, of texture. I breathe carefully, smelling the air and when the sun is up I turn my face that way and let it lighten me. Jane
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (38 of 48), Read 29 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Friday, September 24, 1999 11:08 AM Jane: What a brilliant, and moving, paragraph. A consummation devoutly to be wish'd, for sure. Ann: At one point, I remember reading that some nuns wore actual wedding bands, in light of the brides of Christ concept. Does anybody know if that's still done these days? >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (39 of 48), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Friday, September 24, 1999 12:26 PM All: I've managed to relocate the Scott Peck lecture on audiotape I mentioned earlier, and will pick it up at the library tomorrow. If you want to look for it at your own library, it's a 60-minute tape titled "Further Along the Road Less Traveled: Sexuality and Spirituality." I'll also tape a copy to circulate to anyone who's interested. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (40 of 48), Read 34 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, September 24, 1999 01:56 PM Dale -- I do remember seeing this ring and 'bride of Christ' ceremony depicted in films. I have no insight into its current status though. For some reason I have always shied away from Peck -- perhaps I need to explore his work if for no other reason than to know what it was I was avoiding. Is this available as a book or is it only a taped lecture? Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (41 of 48), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Friday, September 24, 1999 05:59 PM Dottie: As far as I can determine, "Sexuality and Spirituality" is only available on audio. Peck rubs some people the wrong way, but at his best I've gotten some life-changing insights from his work. (His attempts at fiction, I've found horrendous. But, hey...) I'll be glad to put you on the list for a copy of the tape, if you're willing to invest an hour. I highly recommend it. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (42 of 48), Read 28 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, September 25, 1999 03:27 AM Sure -- put me on the list -- maybe a tape is an easier intro to exploring Peck. Thanks, Dale! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (43 of 48), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, September 28, 1999 12:09 PM I guess Grouchy's mantle passes to me here. I found this book overwrought and overwritten. Villanelle was a fascinating character, though. But I liked Oranges,etc. much better. I'm not much for magic realism, I must admit. Which is funny, because I love Surrealism. And Dale, BTW, Magritte is considered a Surrealist. I've never heard of Magic Realism in conjunction with art. Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (44 of 48), Read 16 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, September 28, 1999 03:33 PM Ruth -- I need an art lesson and my tinsmith. I will ask you for the art lesson and then try very hard to recall the info which has slipped through the rusty spot in the sieve I call my brain! Could you give me a synopsis on Surrealism. Is there a superimposition of objects onto/over a realistic background to some extent? I am not at all clear -- I am thinking that some art I viewed at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana in the early 80's would qualify if what I said above is in anyway related to Surrealism. This was a Native American artist I believe and the paintings have stayed in my mind but I have lost his name! NOT the best if I want to locate any of the works or try to see any of the work (if any!) which he has done since then. Many of these were sky and/or landscapes with geometric forms and shapes -- pueblos and tipis and other things fit into areas or superimposed upon areas -- they were fascinating. Guess I should have moved this to salon -- if you want, you could post the response there so we don't clutter up the CR spot! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (45 of 48), Read 17 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, September 28, 1999 04:37 PM Ruth, This is just one of those times we disagree. I really liked The Passion. It seems to me that Surrealism and magic realism is not so very different, so I can't quite understand your love of one and dislike of another. They both involve flights of imagination and fancy and seeing the world through a different kind of eye. But, heh, if we all liked the same thing, there'd be nothing to talk about, just a general agreement all around, "That's nice. Yes, wasn't it." Sherry
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (46 of 48), Read 16 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Tuesday, September 28, 1999 05:31 PM I don't understand why I don't like Magic Realism and yet do like Surrealism, either, Sherry. If I ever figure it out, you'll be the first to know. Or if you figure it out, please tell me. Actually, it wasn't so much the fantasy parts of this book that I disliked, but the rather breathless, to me overwrought, writing style. I'm fascinated though, by the author's choice of Villanelle for the heroine's name. As some of you may remember, it's a poetic form. According to my Handbook of Poetic Forms the name comes "from the Latin (or Italian) word villa, which means a country house or farm. Originally a villain wasn't aq bad character in a story, he was simply a farm servant, a country bumpkin. The villanella was an old italian folk song with an accompanying dance. Since the 17th century, the villanelle has had its current form, although it has moved, in the hands of contemporary poets, to themes other than love or the joys of country living." So where does this lead us? Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (47 of 48), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, September 28, 1999 08:08 PM Ruth: One place that this leads us (insert huge self-promotion on my part) is that my poetry/essay collection will be off the press next month (fingers crossed, please) and among the poems in it is the only villanelle I've written in my life, which began with our Constant Readers' communal challenge online, many moons ago, to write something in that "antique" form. Mine bears the appropriate dedication to you. And, with the slightest bit of arm-twisting, I could be talked into a reprise of it here. Assuming I can find it in my disastrous filing system. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (48 of 48), Read 15 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, September 28, 1999 08:32 PM Dale, Consider your arm twisted! Jane
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (49 of 53), Read 26 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, September 29, 1999 09:46 AM Jane: Thanks for the "arm twist." After this digression I'll get back to The Passion. Honest. *** GALLERY VILLANELLE (In honor of Ruth Bavetta) A world of canvases apart, I watch you drink your glass of wine. I see the difference in our art. You penetrate a blank surface's heart, Extract from each its grand design: A world of canvases apart. A thing's dark core is where I start And wander outward, speaking blind. I see the difference in our art. But all skills have a counterpart. On skin your art's a different kind, A world of canvases apart. You swim the darkness with no chart, Commune with ancient concubine. I see the difference in our art. Your surface is where I must start, Beyond my depth on this coastline. A world of canvases apart, I see the difference in our art. *** >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (50 of 53), Read 25 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, September 29, 1999 10:15 AM Dale, I want to tell you and everybody how absolutely thrilled I was when you asked if you could dedicate the poem to me. As if I would refuse! It's the absolute nicest thing that's happened to me since I got over the diaper rash. I'm deeply, deeply honored. Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (51 of 53), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Wednesday, September 29, 1999 02:25 PM Dale, I love it, I love it, I love it!!!! You and Ruth and your respective creative hearts...I just can't wait to read more! Anne in CO, a big fan!
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (52 of 53), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, September 29, 1999 03:40 PM Ruth: You're welcome! Anne: Thanks for the compliment. I'm crossing my fingers that this collection will be available on Amazon by the end of October...or else, orderable from your local bookstore. Stay tuned, for more shameless self-promotion...{G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (53 of 53), Read 2 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 01:29 AM Dale, Lovely villanelle! I don't remember you posting it during the discussion back then, but I seem to remember Ruth's; a bit about shopping, wasn't it? As I recall it was very, very cute. Tonya
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (54 of 57), Read 20 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 12:37 PM Tonya: Thanks. Ruth's villanelle was indeed delightful. Maybe with a little arm-twisting we could get her (and anyone else here who took the 1998 Villanelle Challenge) to repost. Who knows? Maybe it's time for a 1999 Villanelle Challenge--or another obscure verse form just as villainous. Suggestions, anybody? (Twist, twist) >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (55 of 57), Read 12 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 04:03 PM I'll repost if you'll allow me to switch this down to the Salon, and get back here to my original question. Why did Winterston choose Villanelle for the name of her heroine? Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (56 of 57), Read 10 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 08:35 PM Ruth, There are lines that are repeated often in a villanelle poem, and the character Villanelle repeats lines often like, "You play, you win, you play, you lose, you play." and "Passion is somewhere between fear and sex." She is like a poem herself with her magical life. Am I reading too much into this character? Jane
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (57 of 57), Read 7 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, September 30, 1999 09:10 PM Oh, that's interesting, Jane. I hadn't thought of that. Ruth Books are cheaper than wallpaper
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (58 of 62), Read 31 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Friday, October 01, 1999 06:47 AM Also, why did Winterson choose to give Villanelle webbed feet? Just so she could be seen walking on water? I keep thinking there must be something else at play here. MAP
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (59 of 62), Read 32 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, October 01, 1999 07:08 AM Mary Anne, I think the webbed feet was in keeping with the fantasy and seemed to make her part of her environment. It was also a device that put her apart from regular humans, made her a more fluid character. She was able to flow from situation to situation, emphasized the magical part of her nature. Sherry
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (60 of 62), Read 19 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, October 03, 1999 02:05 PM A quote from Jeannette Winterton, from her biography in Contemporary Authors: "I started writing because I was poor. I continue because any plug in the increasing tide of soap and semi-literate excrement served up as entertainment must be worth keeping. I don't believe in television. It wastes the imagination. I do believe in books. You can't just stare at a book. You have to get involved. Movies have potential in that they bring people together, but unless they take from the creative process involved in reading books, they are in danger of becoming just a big television." David
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (61 of 62), Read 17 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, October 03, 1999 03:31 PM David: Jeez, what a great quote! I heard Ray Bradbury speak at a writing conference a few years ago, and he went into a beautiful 10-minute rant on his theory as to how television, and particularly its coverage of the news, is distorting the world in a way that is eating away at our very culture. Wish I had his comments on paper... >Dale in Ala.
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (62 of 62), Read 2 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Tonya Presley (tpresley@swbell.net) Date: Sunday, October 03, 1999 11:29 PM Dale, I wish you did, too. Tonya
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (63 of 67), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Monday, October 04, 1999 07:12 AM David, That is a wonderful quote. There is so much truth in that quote that it's scary. MAP
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (64 of 67), Read 38 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, October 04, 1999 08:22 PM Now, why didn't we have that quote available when that Bozo in Washington, D.C., asked why we bothered reading books when we could watch the movie. And the movie was over in two hours, whereas the book might take weeks! Jane
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (65 of 67), Read 35 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, October 05, 1999 01:47 AM Jane -- Excellent idea -- I think I'm going to copy this and write it sown on a little card (maybe the back of one of the CR business cards) and keep it in my wallet! Dottie ID is an oxymoron! PS -- OKAY -- so I don't write THAT small -- how about a CR postcard and then I can fold it (gasp!)?
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (66 of 67), Read 21 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, October 07, 1999 04:11 AM God, I love people with that kind of passion...and I didn't even think of the title of the book when I initially wrote that comment. And, I agree with Ray Bradbury totally, Dale. In fact, I haven't watched TV news or listened to radio news (except NPR) in about 5 yrs. for exactly that reason. I always want to throw a shoe at that offending image or voice. It's hard to find a good source for reading the news these days. Most newspapers bow to sensationalism as well. Barb
Topic: THE PASSION by Jeannette Winterson (67 of 67), Read 22 times Conf: READING LIST BOOKS From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Thursday, October 07, 1999 08:52 AM Barb: I'm with you. TV news grates on me, with the exception of Lehrer's report on PBS. But NPR is where I go when I want the real story on something. Long may it live. >>Dale in Ala.

 

 

Jeanette Winterson

 
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