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Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery Paperback – February 4, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

One suspects that the title of this essay collection is not meant to be a noun. What, then, does Winterson think art objects to? The answer surfaces readily in her first essay, a probing piece about learning to look, to really look, at paintings. Art objects, she imagines, to our propensity for doomsaying, for seeing the glass as half-empty rather than half-full. Winterson continues to develop this notion as she shifts her focus from the visual arts to various aspects of literature, her true metier. In the course of invigorating discussions on Woolf, Lawrence, and others, Winterson offers a thoroughly convincing argument for keeping writer's lives (especially their sexuality) separate from their work, but then she executes one of her adept pirouettes and grants us a glimpse of her past. In a flash, we understand just how profound her involvement with art is, and our appreciation for her superb essays deepens. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Jeanette Winterson is one of Britain's brightest alternative literary lights. Her quirky, madly poetic prose has won her a loyal cult following and a lot of respect from the mainstream. H.J.Kirchhoff, The Globe and Mail

"Thrilling, persuasive, challenging and written with a skill and beauty entirely shorn of artifice.... Should be bought, read, re-read and read out loud as often as possible." Edmonton Journal

"Brilliant essays, the finest I=ve read in years, a wonderful, timely endorsement of what art is and what it isn't. In 10 separate ways, from 10 different angles, she takes clear, intelligent aim at the modern wish that art be less arty, and more entertaining; that art be easier for people to chew and quickly digest...Should be required reading." Ottawa Citizen

"It is invigorating to read these essays by a woman who believes in art, full stop." The Globe and Mail

"A delight...I find Winterson an invigorating critic, as well as an exhilarating literary soul mate...At a time when literary commentary is bogged down by dense, impenetrable post-modern and post-structuralist twaddle, Art Objects...offers itself as a breath of fresh thought and fresh expression." Kitchener-Waterloo Record

"Brilliant, challenging, funny, highly personal." Family Practice

"A witty, reasoned look at the power of, and our powerful need for, all forms of art." Ottawa Citizen

"A book of essays to set your intellect on fire." Bruce Powe, The Financial Post

"Potent.... Part soulful meditation and part fiery manifesto.... Ms. Winterson is a passionate writer.... Hers is a book born of a restless, uncompromising intelligence and a life of practicing what she preaches, of taking the kind of artistic risks she so fiercely espouses." The New York Times Book Review

"Winterson is in fine form in these essays about art, arguing, admonishing, infuriating, teasing...She fights solemnly, beguilingly, for ecstasy and silence and the revival of our ability to contemplate...She says much that is important about energy and passion. Her stalwart defence of the modern is a challenge to the barrenness and niggliness with which we live." The Observer (UK)

"There is no denying the beauty and precision of her writing, nor the clarity of her expression...On her heroines—Stein, Woolf, Eliot, books themselves—she is particularly strong and passionate. Through it all, a central theme occurs: that art, true art, is and will remain a vital force, without which life is scarcely worthy of the name." Time Out (UK)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 4, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679768203
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679768203
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Frank Drake on October 31, 1998
Format: Paperback
What is our typical reaction upon completing an experience of a work of art -- be it reading a novel, listening to music, viewing a painting, or any other interaction. "Do I like it?" "What does it mean to me?" Am I entertained? Touched? Thrilled? Changed forever?

Wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong, says the lonely voice of one Jeanette Winterson, author of a beautifully piercing set of essays collectively entitled `Art Objects' (the second word is read as a verb). Winterson makes many excellent points in this work, but for my money the best is her call to objectify art, especially the appreciation of art. A work of art is its own thing, and deserves to be taken on its own merits. If it fails at this, ok, but we need to stop seeing everything in art reflected through our own subjective prism; otherwise we risk lowering it to entertainment and diversion. We already have plenty of that; besides, art deserves better.

This seems a fresh idea, but Winterson points out that it's actually quite old -- we've merely forgotten as we've been soaked with a century and a half of Victorian frumpiness. Most of history has taken art for what it is or could be; only in our self-possessed 20th century have we demanded that art come to us personally, not actually ventured ourselves out into the artistic universe, a strange and difficult land. Winterson's historical perspectives need more flesh, but she's chosen a good villain. At her toughest, Dickens and Trollope come in for some hard knocks. At her most generous, she extols us to keep reading Victorian literature; if only we would stop writing it as well.

This would be some of the best art criticism I've read in years if it stopped there; fortunately, she presses on.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy on October 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Jeanette Winterson, writes in a very lucid manner on a topic that can quickly become an extremely nebulous and splintered subject. She begins with a story of her travels to Amsterdam, where she is haunted by a painting in a window. This never happened to her before, as Winterson was always a wordsmith. The unexpected discovery-the idea that a painting has the power to touch her so deeply and so powerfully-troubles her deeply and she cowers initially, as if she saw a ghost.
This anecdote serves to create the tone of the book, an intense and honest meditation into art and art making. Winterson, weaves us through her meditation through a very readable style and by using very general terms. She simultaneously addresses the novice, to those well versed in the concepts of art history and theory of art criticism. I say this because the questions, what is art?, what is the fuction of art?, why practice art?, are basic questions that can be addressed by all levels of understanding-and it is those questions Winterson addresses. Though she begins with visual art she reverts to her expertise in the form of literature. But, the concepts are easily translated into the other art forms.
However, in her opinions of what is beauty and what is art, Winterson can seem a bit idealistic in her views of art and art making. She professes to be a little out of sync with current society(her confession)-which could be taken as a person who revers the past and therefore is a bit 'old school' in her approach to the topic, however, she does not pretend to be a final authority on the topic either.
But,the 'beauty' of this book is it can be a starting point and a gentle guide for the novice into the ongoing conversation of art and art history as well as an eloquent reminder of fundemental concepts in a splintered conversation of art theory and criticsm.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Exceptionally insightful and well-written essays on the place of art and the power of the visual in our society. Unfortunately the last section turns into a rather overly defensive diatribe about her own works, probably a reaction to the negative press she received about _Art & Lies_. Still well worth reading if one has any interest in representations of art, particularly painting
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 11, 1998
Format: Hardcover
As an artist, I have never read a more wonderous piece on looking at art than Ms. Winterson's in this book. If you think you don't know anything about art, there is no better place to start than here. If you are an artist in any field, it will bring tears to your eyes. Read it outloud to someone, anyone. I dare you to be able to complete reading it without being interupted by tears of joy. The entire book is illuminating. A must have in hard cover, it is a treasure. Then, happily, we have "Gut Symetries" to move on to afterwards. This woman is priceless.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mehmel on August 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I should explain the title. As Jeanette will explain within the pages, art not only /objects/ with our safe notions of what we consider to be good or normal to our perceptions, but also art is also an /object/ to be handled, manipulated, and explored by our souls, with all the effort we would put into whatever coporeal object our hands might hold and seek to understand.
Having told you this, that the title encompasses so much of the book, does not mean that it does not need to be read now. Much the opposite. Though almost every essay comes back to these points, some essays deal with the subject in regards to a certain book, or just the act of creating art itself. As an artist, as any writer/painter/poet/? is, I found this to be a call to arms, in a way, inspiring me by assisting my mind in delineating exactly what I wish to create. If you are creative, read this collection.
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