Books

jeanette winterson

For award-winning English novelist Jeanette Winterson, the boundaries we place upon ourselves can be traversed; we need only muster the courage.

In her new book, The Stone Gods, ­available in April, misfits of mankind wish to escape the boundaries of their world. So naturally, Winterson expands on 20 Questions, lest we think one can be clearly defined by virtue of her response.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Waterhorse! That's the story of a boy in Scotland who finds an egg, and when it hatches it grows up to be the Loch Ness Monster, goes back into the loch, but returns to find its boy. It's not sentimental or silly. It's about chance and imagination. I took my godchildren, who are 11 and 8, and we all cried.

2. The fictional character most like you?

I might choose Ariel in The Tempest or I might choose the fox in Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, or Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

3. The greatest album, ever?

That question is the kind of thing you play with when you're sleepless in a strange city and you've had too much to drink. There is no answer — there's a lot of good music out there.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars ?

Both. The mythic quality of the quest in Star Wars is satisfying. Star Trek is just good fun — like Buffy. It's the kind of TV that saves the medium from brain-curdling mush.

5. Your ideal brain food?

The great thing about art, whether it's paintings or music or theater or opera or a book, is that the brain has to engage at a level of challenge and unfamiliarity. When the brain encounters anything really new — and art is new ways, slantways, of looking at the familiar — then the brain has to refire its neurons, make synaptic connections.

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

As a writer, I believe in the power of language and literature to make us better than we are. The concrete beauty of good writing allows for an emotional as well as a cerebral connection. We can be wholly ­human through the agency of books.

7. You want to be remembered for …?

I want to be remembered publicly as the writer that I am. I want to be remembered privately as a good friend and someone who was kind.

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

It would be a long list and a list that will move over time. As we change, so our reading of the past changes, both literally and figuratively. There were times when I could not have done without Virginia Woolf. Times when Ted Hughes, times when ­William Blake, times when Wagner, times when Picasso.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

I am happy to do my own work in my own way and benefit from the work of ­others. I wish I could make a cheese soufflé that didn't collapse, though.

10. Your hidden talents?

I am a natural gardener, and I can grow anything.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

A good friend said, ”Never read reviews. Take criticism or encouragement from those you trust and respect.“

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole or borrowed?

A cat.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or …?

I wear both. Always Armani to an opening night (I like the theater and the opera).

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Meryl Streep.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

I do that all the time in my head and sometimes in my books, so it's no big deal. Where you can't take your body, you can take your mind.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa ­vacation or Prozac?

Never drugs, prescription or otherwise. The U.S. is hooked on anti-depressants. You live in a medication culture, which fortunately isn't so marked in England, yet.

A good diet, loads of exercise, sex if you can get it, liberal but not embarrassing amounts of champagne, a sense of humor, and a cat or a dog. I admit that's quite a list but it works for me.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, ­cigarettes, chocolate, or …?

See question No. 16.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

I live in the country. It suits me because I think that hooting owls are better than hooting horns.

I am thoroughly European, and love to take the train to Paris, eat lunch, and then travel overnight to Rome or Venice. But these are escapes. It is important to like where you live, and to choose carefully.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

Same as I want to say to the leader of your country: Stand down.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on now?

A new book for older kids about a lonely child who builds a robot. It's a modern take on Frankenstein. It will be out next year.

  Comments