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

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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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.

Review

"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: #148,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I use this book as my bible of sorts, to reflect on what is going on socially and culturally that curbs our imaginative and creative spirits. I read a few of the negative reviews and feel they just didn't get it. Winterson critiques the pragmatic and pushes the boundaries of dreaming and imagining!
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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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In my unlettered opinion this was Winterson's last relevant work. She'll flame me someday if she finds this, but that's okay, because I could argue that with her most compellingly. It's so compressed and pungent, the title essay is so scathing, at the time, pre-memoir, it offered this rare insight into the process of and influences on one of the most original prose stylists, before the work became self-derivative and cocky and (for this reader) disappointing. Stopping now before she flings electronic Le Creuset at my head; she's still très formidable and I wouldn't want to meet her in a literary-critical dark alley. This book is essential, was vital for me at a certain time, and I press it upon my fellow writers like an arterial-stopping compress. In a word: necessary. Art objects; it objects, specifically, to YOU; and if you don't pay attention you will be bereaved of something you never even knew you had to have in order to live.
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