Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
Weight: 8 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving in Joe’s in EAV
I read Written on the Body for the first time when I was sixteen, and I fell in love. I thought it was beautiful, and it started a long-term love affair with Jeanette Winterson that exists to this day. I have since recommended it to countless people. Strangers who came into the bookstore I worked at, heterosexual women who were in love with Nicholas Sparks, lesbian women looking for some fiction, and young men looking for something different than what they had been reading. I have suggested it to friends and, recently, bought it for my girlfriend. It was this most recent purchase that led me to read it again.
I remembered it as a moving and lyrical love story and had completely blocked out that the first half of the book is about a lesbian woman’s conquests of married heterosexual women. I did not remember being regaled by sexual escapades with one woman and then the next and then the next. Once I had finished the book, that section seemed like it had drawn on far too long. A portion of it would have and did add to the second half of the book, but it was not all needed. The lyricism could be beautiful, but it could also be trite and pull you out of the story. So often, there were one-liners or even entire paragraphs that would make a great quote for a love letter, a tattoo, or a status update on Facebook (I said it), but they did not nest well in the full text of the book.
It was difficult for me to reread this book and come to the realization that it is no longer one of my favorites, and that I was no longer impressed by it. I thought about 16 year old Laura and 27 year old Laura and felt foolish for not realizing sooner that so much had changed within me that would influence my understanding and feelings towards the novel.
I resisted getting rid of this book the entire time I have been writing on this blog but, I suppose, I am glad I reread it and now know that I can hand it off to the next person who is in the right place at the right time. The realization of not being tied to this book is strangely sad though, and I almost feel like I am going through a literary crisis of sorts. I am losing something I felt was essential to my reading self. I know that sounds dramatic but, sometimes, you get bonded to a book and the “loss” of it is almost as moving as the initial love of it.