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Art & Lies (1994)

by Jeanette Winterson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,347811,709 (3.71)18
'There is no such thing as autobiography, there is only art and lies'. Set in a London of the near future, its three principal characters, Handel, Picasso and Sappho, separately flee the city and find themselves on the same train, drawn to one another through the curious agency of a book. Stories within stories take us through the unlikely love-affairs of one Doll Sneerpiece, an 18th century bawd, and into the world of painful beauty where language has the power to heal. Art & Liesis a question and a quest- How shall I live?… (more)
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
the writing is beautiful, but it's not an easy book to read.
I must reread when I am more awake. ( )
  mjhunt | Jan 22, 2021 |
"But not all facts are known and what is known is not necessarily a fact."

Beautiful writing, but complicated and challenging to read. The book presents three intertwining narratives, characters who are named Sappho, Picasso, and Handel, whose relationships to their namesakes is a bit obscure. I think that the book is about the power of words, or of art, to re-write a life formed by trauma. I liked the book, although often I was unsure of what I was reading.

Here is what Winterson has to say about the book on her website:

"Why should literature be easy? Sometimes you can do what you want to do in a simple, direct way that is absolutely right. Sometimes you can’t. Reading is not a passive act. Books are not TV. Art of all kinds is an interactive challenge. The person who makes the work and the person who comes to the work both have a job to do. I am never wilfully obscure, but I do ask for some effort. Certainly Art and Lies is my most closed piece of work. Perhaps it is hermeneutic, though no more so than plenty of books by plenty of guys .It was written at a time when I was looking inwards not outwards. It is thickly layered, concentrated and often dark. But it’s a book not a crime. If you don’t like it, don’t read it." ( )
  banjo123 | May 4, 2020 |
"Art & Lies" sounded so promising to me, but though I enjoyed reading some of the characters' inner thoughts, and where those thoughts would go, I found the book as a whole not very enjoyable. And it may be that it was not meant to be enjoyable reading. Three characters: Handel (not that Handel), Picasso (not that Picasso) and Sappho (a ghost ? of that Sappho), three stories that intermix in strange ways, an ending that is not an ending... I think I was not in the right frame of mind for this book, maybe some other time. ( )
  Marse | Mar 30, 2020 |
winterson's (slightly indirectly stated) purpose in writing this book is "re-virgining the whore", that is, new-life-ing worn-out words-and-phrases. and she does pretty well, beautiful prose her strength and all. nice flow of wordage to sink into, fill you with colours and smells and al. (can't resist the occasional outta-place-teehee, though. "vers. libre lel", gives some human-ness)

what feels over-engineered, then, is the skeleton under that skin, poking out chunkily all over. but she addresses that too, being all "in your daily lives, you make everything as un-natural as possible, surrounding yourself with un-natural things. why get upset over un-natural stories?". and it works, and it's nice. still, though, don't think could read a bunch of books like this sequentially, just need a breather sometimes with a float and flutter-flow some more. she uses it here more as a frame for related poems. works, tied together pretty well but can't really "long-feel" from it, just headspeak and moments

bit about book-burrowing boys maybe favourite image in anything ever now, though.

and all together, favourite fan fiction
  shmibs | Sep 1, 2017 |
Oh, I haven't read a real book in ages; I definitely enjoyed this. It's not a novel by any traditional standards: it's an assortment of bits of prose and points of view. Art & Lies is an appropriate title — art, philosophy, life, beauty, humor, obscenity. It all works in the end, and Winterson's writing is refreshing creative and insightful.
  csoki637 | Nov 27, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeanette Wintersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rao, MassimoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strauss, RichardComposersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Belongs to Publisher Series

rororo (22399)
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Epigraph
THE NATURE OF A WORK OF ART
IS TO BE NOT A PERT, NOR YET
A COPY OF THE REAL WORLD
(AS WE COMMONLY UNDERSTAND
THAT PHRASE),
BUT A WORLD IN ITSELF,
INDEPENDENT, COMPLETE, AUTONOMOUS;
AND TO POSSESS IT FULLY
YOU MUST ENTER THAT WORLD,
CONFORM TO ITS LAWS,
AND IGNORE FOR THE TIME THE BELIEFS,
AIMS, AND PARTICULAR CONDITIONS
WHICH BELONG TO YOU
IN THE OTHER WORLD OF REALITY.

(OXFORD LECTURES ON POETRY:
PROFESSOR BRADLEY: 1901)
Dedication
for Peggy Reynolds with love
First words
From a distance only the light is visible, a speeding gleaming horizontal angel, trumpet out on a hard bend.
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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'There is no such thing as autobiography, there is only art and lies'. Set in a London of the near future, its three principal characters, Handel, Picasso and Sappho, separately flee the city and find themselves on the same train, drawn to one another through the curious agency of a book. Stories within stories take us through the unlikely love-affairs of one Doll Sneerpiece, an 18th century bawd, and into the world of painful beauty where language has the power to heal. Art & Liesis a question and a quest- How shall I live?

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