Her first short story collection exhibits the multitude of talents that have made English novelist Jeanette Winterson
not just admired but beloved by her many fans. There are the surprising, fresh little phrases minted expressly to convey the delicate realities of the made-up world. There's the humor, fierce and sly but always kind. There's the imagination that changes gender and historical epoch at whim, and does so convincingly; and the characters themselves, a sundry bunch of men and women not necessarily successful or commendable but always, somehow, likable. Best of all, by their very diversity, these stories reveal glimpses of the smart and enigmatic woman behind the work.
In "Atlantic Crossing," Winterson becomes a middle-aged businessman of the mid-20th century, accidentally assigned to share his second-class cabin with a young black woman on a transatlantic crossing. In the realm of event, little happens, but in its depth of perception and what it tells of the nuances of regret, the story is as rich as a novel in another writer's hands. A few scant pages later, Winterson becomes a kind of lost female Homer, telling Orion's story from Artemis's point of view: "When she returned she saw this huge rag of a man eating her goat, raw.... His reputation hung about him like bad breath." In "The Poetics of Sex," she creates a lesbian love story that evokes her characters' personalities as explicitly as their erotic pleasures. "The 24-Hour Dog," the story of a woman writer returning a puppy she had thought to adopt, is remorseless as a psychological thriller in the squirmy depths it plumbs: "I had made every preparation, every calculation, except for those two essentials that could not be calculated: his heart and mine." Read The World and Other Places twice, once for instruction, once for joy. --Joyce Thompson
From Publishers 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.
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