Kindle Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal Beautifully wri
Kindle Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Beautifully written, engrossing, and suffused with a love of the saving power of literature. This is the truer, grittier, more analytical version of Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (my review HERE), with an update of Winterson's very recent attempts to trace her birth mother, and interspersed with thoughts on words, writing, literature and a dash of politics of family, class, feminism and sexuality. It is better if you are familiar with Oranges, but not essential. There also seem to be significant autobiographical aspects to Lighthousekeeping, as explained in my review HERE).NOT "MISERY LIT"When I read Oranges many years ago, it was before the vogue for "misery lit", a genre I have avoided. However, reading this, I realise that despite the erudition and humour, both books are perhaps in that category. Don't let that put you off. Much of Winterson's upbringing was awful: neglect, psychological bullying, deceit and most importantly, lack of love, and yet she comes through it all the stronger and even when she has a major breakdown in later life, still realises that her pain has made her who she is.PLOT SUMMARYThe story is now well-known, but to recap, Jeanette was adopted by a poor, middle aged, dysfunctional couple who belonged to a Pentecostal church. Most of the time, they all act as if their quirks and cruelty are entirely normal. She escaped into forbidden books and grammar school (an academically-focused school), but fell foul of her family when she fell in love with a girl. PARENTS = MRS WINTERSON and DADHer mother is almost entirely referred to as "Mrs Winterson" (just occasionally "my mum", but never just "Mum"), whereas her father is "Dad" and mostly in the background until old age. Mrs W is the far more vividly drawn character: "a flamboyant depressive... I think Mrs Winterson was afraid of happiness”. She was also hypocritical (a supposedly secret smoker who neither believed not practised all the teachings of her chosen church) and who had unexplained disappearances, whereas Dad is just weak, or perhaps too peaceful to stand up to her, who "hated him - not in an angry way, but with a toxic submissive resentment". “My father was unhappy. My mother was disordered. We were like refugees in our own life.” “There was a barrier between us, transparent but real.” “She was her own Enigma code and me and my dad were not Bletchley Park.” And specifically about Mrs W:“Our conversations were like two people using phrase books to say things neither understands.” But despite all the pain, as a middle aged woman, Winterson notes:“I hate Ann criticising Mrs Winterson. She was a monster but she was my monster.”ABANDONMENTThe undercurrent of the book and Winterson’s life is abandonment: given up by her birth mother, unloved and abused by her adopted mother, and abandoned by her first lover as soon as they were caught. In her troublesome teens, she wonders: “Were we endlessly ransacking the house, the two of us, looking for evidence of each other? I think we were – she, because I was fatally unknown to her, and she was afraid of me. Me, because I had no idea what was missing but felt the missing-ness of the missing.” As an adult:“I have never felt wanted… And I have loved most extravagantly where my love could not be returned… but I did not know how to love.”LOVE OF LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE"Books don’t make a home – they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside. Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space.”One of the aspects of this book that I most enjoyed was Winterson's feel and passion for language and literature, enhanced by the lengths she had to go to to enjoy them. "She [Mrs W] knew full well that writers were sex-crazed bohemians who broke the rules and didn't go out to work. Books had been forbidden in our house." The perverse exception was murder mysteries:"The trouble with a book is that you never know what's in it until it's too late." But for Winterson:literature "isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place... She was right. A book is a magic carpet that flies you off elsewhere... Do you come back?" She was not a high flier at school, and yet:“I knew how words worked in the way that some boys knew how engines worked.” The best thing about Oxford University was:“Its seriousness of purpose and the unquestioned belief that the life of the mind was at the heart of civilised life… It was like living in a library and that was where I had always been happiest.” Writing is even more powerful, and there are two kinds: "the one you write and the one that writes you. The one that writes you is dangerous." The other side of that coin is that at her lowest point, which is brutally and bravely documented, “language left me”. Terrifying for anyone, let alone a writer. And not for the first time, it is poetry that rescues her, “All that poetry I learned when I had to keep my library inside me now offered a rescue rope… If poetry was a rope, then the books themselves were rafts. At my most precarious I balanced on a book, and the books rafted me over the tides of feelings that left me soaked and shattered”. “The poem finds the word that finds the feeling.”Winterson also analyses the narrative of her own life, "Adopted children are self-invented... adoption drops you into the story after it has started". Regarding Mrs W's reaction to Oranges, "What you leave out says as much as those things you include... Mrs W objected to what I had put in, but it seemed to me that what I had left out was the story's silent twin." And both twins change when she traces her birth mother. Until then, “My whole identity was built around being an orphan – and an only child”. The meeting is visceral, traumatic, comic, but ultimately somewhat unresolved. A couple of other wonderful books that have this theme in different ways:Stoner, my review HERECold Mountain, my review HEREANALYSING HERSELF“I would rather be this me… than the me I might have become without books, without education.” That education comes to the fore towards the end, in a short chapter called “The Wound” where she compares lots of myths about wounds (literal and metaphorical), adoption, mistaken identity etc. It’s a powerful and erudite exploration of some of the themes in the book, but doesn’t quite fit in style.There is understandable bitterness towards Mrs W, but despite rejecting the church, she is also grateful to it in some ways. Belief in God helped her when she was small (“God made sense of uncertainty”) and she saw many working class people "living a deeper, more thoughtful life than would have been possible without the church... Bible study worked their brains". An unintended consequence being that familiarity with the 1611 Bible and daily use of thee and thou in their own speech, made Shakespeare was relatively accessible. She documents the contradictions of her church (some unpleasant, some merely comical) with a degree of fondness. When homeless and living in a car, she observes, “I was lucky in one way because our church had always emphasised how important it is to concentrate on good things”! In a similar vein, "The one good thing about being shut in a coal hole is that it prompts reflection"! I’m not sure that would be benefit enough to appease a social worker.PURSUIT OF HAPPINESSHer life is about the pursuit of happiness, "life-long, and it is not goal-centred". She says that as a child, she always wanted to escape her life, as did Mrs W in a different way (every night she prayed "Lord, let me die"). However, she also says, “I don’t know anyone, including me, who felt trapped and hopeless”, albeit more in terms of church putting poverty into perspective. Applying to Oxford was apparently not so much about escape but “because it was the most impossible thing I could do”. In working class areas of the north in the 1970s, men were still in charge, and women undervalued, “My world was full of strong able women who were ‘housewives’ and had to defer to their men”. The result of this strange and traumatic upbringing is that:“The things that I regret in life are not errors of judgement but failures of feeling.”TYPES OF ENDING"When we write we offer the silence as much as the story. Words are the part of silence that can be spoken. Mrs Winterson would have preferred it if I had been silent."It would be easy to summarise the book in the lines:“She longed for me to be free and did everything she could to make sure it never happened.” and: "All she ever wanted was for me to go away. And when I did she never forgave me." However, that would do it a disservice, because it is really far more about the necessity of love – understanding it and fully experiencing it. Winterson herself categorises three types of ending: revenge, tragedy and forgiveness; this book contains all three.. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? am Book Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is a tough minded search for belonging, for love, identity, home, and a mother.Jeanette Winterson s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, OraWitty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is a tough minded search for belonging, for love, identity, home, and a mother.Jeanette Winterson s novels have established her as a major figure in world literature She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally bestselling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is a memoir about a life s work to find happiness It s a book full of stories about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon about growing up in an north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition about the Universe as Cosmic Dustbin It is the story of how a painful past that Jeanette thought she d written over and repainted rose to haunt her, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is a tough minded search for belonging, for love, identity, home, and a mother.. Novelist Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester, England in 1959 She was adopted and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, in the north of England Her strict Pentecostal Evangelist upbringing provides the background to her acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, published in 1985 She graduated from St Catherine s College, Oxford, and moved to London where she worked as an assistant editor at Pandora Press.One of the most original voices in British fiction to emerge during the 1980s, Jeanette Winterson was named as one of the 20 Best of Young British Writers in a promotion run jointly between the literary magazine Granta and the Book Marketing Council Her novels include Boating for Beginners 1985 , published shortly after Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and described by the author as a comic book with pictures The Passion 1987 , twin narratives following the adventures of the web footed daughter of a Venetian gondolier and Napoleon s chicken chef Sexing the Cherry 1989 , an invented world set during the English Civil War featuring the fabulous Dog Woman and the orphan she raises and three books exploring triangular relationships, gender and formal experimentation Written on the Body 1992 , Art and Lies 1994 and Gut Symmetries 1997 She is also the author of a collection of short stories, The World and Other Places 1998 , and a book of essays about art and culture, Art Objects, published in 1995 Her novel The PowerBook 2000 she adapted for the National Theatre in 2002 Jeanette Winterson s work is published in 28 countries Her latest novel is The Battle of the Sun 2009 She has also edited Midsummer Nights 2009 , a collection of stories inspired by opera, by contemporary writers, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Glyndebourne Festival of Opera She adapted Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit for BBC television in 1990, and also wrote Great Moments in Aviation, a television screenplay directed by Beeban Kidron for BBC2 in 1994 She is also editor of a series of new editions of novels by Virginia Woolf published in the UK by Vintage She is a regular contributor of reviews and articles to many newspapers and journals and has a regular column published in The Guardian Her radio drama includes the play Text Message, broadcast by BBC Radio in November 2001 The King of Capri 2003 and Tanglewreck 2006 are children s stories Lighthousekeeping 2004 , centres on the orphaned heroine Silver, taken in by the keeper of the Cape Wrath lighthouse, Mr Pew, whose stories of love and loss, passion and longing, are interwoven in the narrative Her most recent book is The Battle of the Sun 2009 Jeanette Winterson lives in Gloucestershire and London In 2006, she was awarded an OBE.. Popular Books Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Books mean a great deal to me. Are you surprised to hear me say this? I think not. As a consequence, I really enjoy reading books about people who really enjoy books. It’s just how these things work. And Jeanette Winterson really, really, likes books. When she had nothing, she always had her books: they gave her courage and strength. This is a book for those that love reading and writing; this is a book for those that understand why someone would spend their entire life doing such things: it is a book that speaks directly to the book lover. Jeannette had a very cold childhood; her mother was a depressive who had a very warped mind set. She was devoutly religious but rather than seeing religion as a means of spreading love and understanding, she saw it as a way to chastise people. She was a misanthrope, a hater of mankind. When she looked at society all she saw was a wretched cusp of civilisation that needed to be punished. It was unworthy of God’s teachings, of the word of the Bible. And she was obsessed with the Bible, reading it multiple times each year. She attempted to limit her daughter’s faculties by not letting her read beyond its pages.So Jeanette read in private, hiding her collection of books under her bed. One day her mother found them and burnt them all in the back garden. She destroyed the books of Jeanette’s youth, but she couldn’t destroy her. Jeanette began to learn literature by heart because that could never be taken away from her, and then she set out to write her own story. This book would become her first novelOranges Are Not the Only Fruitwhich, if you didn’t already know, went on to win numerous literary awards along with establishing Winterson as a successful writer. Her writing is highly autobiographical, drawing on her own experiences to create her narratives. Oranges focuses much on sexuality, gender and the restrictions of religious belief. This, on the other hand, centralises the relationship between Jeanette and her mother within the narrative. It builds on the themes established in Oranges and addresses them in a much more intelligent voice. Twenty-five years have passed in between books, and her mother has died since, and as a result Winterson addresses the themes with more clarity and retrospective wisdom. She both hated and loved her mother. Jeanette was adopted, and she has always felt unwanted and incapable of accepting love: she has always felt empty inside. The coldness of her adoptive mother has been to blame for much of this, but her actions created the writer. Without them, Winterson would never have established her literary voice. She would never have read so widely and so voraciously and set her on the path to finding her voice. She knows exactly what her mother was to her:“She was a monster, but she was my monster.” So this is a deeply personal account about Winterson’s life; it is revealing and powerful. I admire her courage to not only write such fiction, but to impart so much of herself to her readers. It’s very brave writing, highly successful too.
Why Be Happy The Japanese Way of Acceptance Haas, Scott Why be Happy is a fascinating, suggestive contemplation, filtered through experiences in Japan, of the happiness perplex in America Haas perceives the basic elements of contentment in Japan as acceptance and empathy and asks if these aren t satisfyingly found in the connections between people than in the isolated American individual. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal Winterson In Why Be Happy, Winterson s emotional life is laid bare Her struggle to first accept and then love herself yields a bravely frank narrative of truly coming undone For someone in love with disguises, Winterson s openness is all the moving there s nothing left to hide, and nothing left to hide behind A.M Homes, Elle Why Be Happy PragerU Jan , It is a moral obligation Being happy around others is a necessary ingredient of growing up and accumulating friends No one likes a Moody Mary Also, happiness makes for a better world After all, how many of the world s dictators and tyrants are motivated by happiness None So, learn how to be happy and learn why being happy is so important. GOOD REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD FEEL HAPPY RIGHT NOW Happiness is a great feeling that we all love to experience, and learning how to be happy is possible If you are feeling down and angry, here are some reasons why you should be happy right now There are people who truly love you