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Art and Lies

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  3,806 ratings  ·  172 reviews
Handel is a failed priest but abiding Catholic with elitist tendencies whose work as a doctor forces him to consider social questions that he would probably rather avoid. Picasso, as she calls herself, is a young artist who has been sexually abused by her brother but whose family thinks she is at fault for her dark moods. Sappho is, indeed, Sappho, the lesbian poet of ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 20th 1996 by Vintage (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,806 ratings  ·  172 reviews

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Feb 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
"The doctor said he could find nothing wrong. She was healthy, she had work, she came from a good family. Her heart beat was normal. Was it? Well, perhaps a little too fast.
Heart attack. Had her heart attacked her? Her heart, trained at obedience classes from an early age? Her heart, well muzzled in public, taught to trot in line. Her heart, that knew the Ten Commandments, and obeyed a hundred more. Her disciplined dogged heart that would come when it was called and that never strained its
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't help but read this slowly
To let the words surround me and fill me
I wanted to stay as long as possible within the pages
Resist the urge to devour every sentence, every word, letter, and period

Winterson has a way with words
They are dark, and rich, and beautiful
I wanted to live them, breathe them
Swim in a sea of her words.

I consumed the last word and now I am sad that it is over.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
Sex=Lies; Art=Transcendence (2012).

Winterson, Jeanette. (1994). Art & Lies. New York:Vintage

Idly, I picked up this book in a used book shop. The publishers blurb on the back said it was a daring novel that burns with phosphorescent prose on every page. I thought, Yeah, sure. I opened the book at random and to my amazement, every page I read burned with phosphorescent prose.

Is it a novel? Not in the Aristotelian sense. There is no plot, no storyline, no climax, no epiphany, no denouement.
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Jeanette Winterson. Those who will follow her anywhere :)
"Two things significantly distinguish human beings from other animals; an interest in the past and the possibility of language. Brought together they make a third: Art."

Art & Lies is a book I don't quite understand. But there were choice quotes like the one above that kept me reading. The book is told through three characters eyes. Handel is a surgeon, ex priest. Picasso is a young painter who grew up in a very malignant environment, her brother molested, raped her repeatedly from when she
Jul 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Jeanette Winterson's strong command of the language combined with a concise, confident direction make Art and Lies a pleasure to read. Filled with allegory and farcical situations reminiscent of Jean Genet and William S. Borroughs she tells of a sexually ambiguous surgeon named Handel; a mentally and physically molested woman artist named Picasso; and the poet Sappho who shares a train ride with the other two.

What ensues is a history of each carefully developed character and how they intertwine
Peter Chandler
Aug 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With such astonishingly lyrical writing, deep introspective musings and resounding cries for individualism this is a truly mesmerising book. I began thinking to try the first few pages and some endlessly astounding moments later I had finished and was strangely aware of how dark it suddenly had become outside! Jeanette Winterson's fantastic prose weaves exhilarating, arousing, inspiring and uplifting web that entirely entangles and lingers long after the end.
Dec 04, 2010 added it
I don't know how to rate was my first Winterson book. There were whole pages I wanted to cut out and paste on my wall. But there's also an entire musical score at the end, and lots of other strangeness. Not entirely sure what to make of it--but I will definitely read more JW.
John Pistelli
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
[Spoilers, disturbing ones at that, toward the end of this review.]

My first encounter with Jeanette Winterson went badly. In college, I read Written on the Body and found it ludicrously overwritten, an imprecise prose poem wearing the guise of a novel, and poorly. I almost wish my Livejournal from that period of my life were still extant so I could quote from my bad review; I remember that it turned on mocking the line from the novel, Your clavicle is both keyboard and key (honestly, I still
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Edit: Reread December of 2019, book 24 of the 2019 reread project.

Just under the wire, I have finished my goal of rereading 24 of my favorite books this year.

And what a book to end it with. I have long said that Written on the Body is my favorite book. And while rereading it didn't light me on fire the way that I remembered, Art and Lies most certainly did.

This is really a long prose poem, a gorgeous and meandering tale that is just so lovely, so achingly gorgeous.

This may now be my favorite
Marc Nash
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
The usual unsurpassed Winterson literary & lingual pyrotechnics and lyricism. Ideas of love, art, desire, history, big ideas dealt with in breathless fragments. The Handel and Picasso chapters were wondrous, the Sappho a bit more oblique and harder to grasp and therefore less satisfying. And the bawd, was well bawdy. Maybe just a bit too packed and breathless for my way of reading. One should probably bask in a couple of a pages at a time and go away and meditate on them before returning for ...more
Aug 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
4.5 stars. I am growing more accustomed to Winterson's writing style, and it was this book that finally made me bow down and worship her as a master of the English language. Her prose is so smoothly woven that even when I didn't follow the "plot" of the story I was still mesmerized. That is her style, I realized-- for me to enjoy the journey rather than rush through to the destination. I won't even attempt a plot summary. "Art & Lies," for me, was more a series of vibrant, human vignettes on ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, lgbtq
Brilliant! Another Winterson masterpiece! This novel doesn't quite read like a novel, but the prose is stunning, breath-takingly beautiful. I was enthralled through the entire book, couldn't read fast enough. It was an absolute joy to read.... again!
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I borrowed this book from the library branch 2 blocks from where I recently moved. What a treat to have that so close to home. Numerous times I nearly marched this book, which I found mostly befuddling, 2 blocks west to return to its place on the shelf. I had read Oranges Aren't The Only Fruit many years ago and had some recollection of Winterson's unique writing style, but Art and Lies left me in a fog most of the time I spent with it. But then! I'd come across a thought that I would wrap my ...more
Kang-Chun Cheng
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
first book by her. descriptions are astounding, i fell in love with her attentiveness to colour and light especially. a special intertwining of 3 tales, written with emotional sensitivity and daring. one of those books that upon finishing, i already feel like i need to read again.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Absolutely beautiful prose- but I sooo like a plot- and it was hard to find in this novel.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
This one lured me in with its beautiful, philosophical language and then crushed me to pieces. Art and Lies deals with a lot of heavy and dark themes and is therefore very hard to read at times. Nevertheless, the writing is so smooth and has such a pleasant flow that you want to read on, no matter the subject.
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me this read as a book of ideas, observations and feelings, written in a perfect poetic prose that I have loved through all Wintersons writing I have read so far.

Yes, there are certainly enough shocking moments, incest and child abuse not ever an easy subject to tackle. It is however a part of life for some, pretending it doesn't happen is to tell the victims they are liars. And this I feel is the point. As children we expect adults to watch out for us, love us unconditionally and protect.

Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-in-fiction
Theres no such thing as autobiography theres only art and lies.

Alternating chapters describe the lives of the three main characters, Handel, a doctor-priest, Picasso, a young woman sexually molested by her brother who paints, and Sappho, the pre-Socratic poet of sexuality.

Handel, the doctor, spent a lot of his career amputating cancerous breasts, and one fateful day cuts off the wrong breast of an ageing prostitute. He could have covered it up being part of an old boy network, cut off the right
May 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book switches back and forth between three different narrators -- Handel, a former priest and current surgeon, Picasso, a young woman from a wealthy family, and Sappho, the poet. (Well, technically, there is a fourth narrative, a book that is being read.) Each of the voices is distinctive, but, partly because of this, the book is uneven overall. I usually love the way Winterson writes, but I found her veering off a little too much here. The Handel sections are strong, and there is an ...more
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like this book could have easily sucked. But it manages to really not. Three separate, loosely connected narratives interwoven by a fourth- it's hard to say what it's actually about. Which is obviously not an issue, but it's often hard to pull off just right so I'm extra impressed when it works. It feels like you're reading moments and thoughts that just casually drift together and make a really satisfying whole. The best part though is that it's beautiful- Winterson's writing is gorgeous ...more
Apr 17, 2010 rated it liked it
I've read several of Winterson's novels, and absolutely love her insight into the human condition. However, I found this novel particularly difficult to read. It is slightly too abstract, and although it contains many beautiful passages that seem to instinctively pinpoint universal experiences, it doesn't quite work as a whole. Obviously that is just my opinion, and perhaps my enjoyment would benefit from a second reading now that I've got my head around the crazy narrative. Definitely worth ...more
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
I've given up. At about two-thirds of the way through this slim book, I just couldn't face carrying on. It's a shame, because I love Jeanette Winterson's other novels, but Art & Lies is so obtuse that it's practically unreadable. Halfway through the novel I had to look up what it was actually meant to be about because I still didn't have a clue - not a good sign. Taken in isolation, there a passages that are wonderful in terms of their sense of poetry and emotion, but these passages don't ...more
Jul 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the young and the idealistic
Shelves: fiction
This was the first book I read by Winterson and it blew my 17-year-old mind.
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, finished
Art and Lies is one of my favorite books. It's very emotional, powerful and beautiful. A perfect book, indeed.
Wendy Orr
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lyrical, rich, sometimes overwhelming, in its use of language, this is poetry in prose form.
William Adams
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Idly, I picked up this book in a used book shop. The publishers blurb on the back said it was a daring novel that burns with phosphorescent prose on every page. I thought, Yeah, sure. I opened the book at random and to my amazement, every page I read burned with phosphorescent prose.

Is it a novel? There is no plot, no storyline, no climax, no epiphany, no denouement. But there is life-drama, mystery, strong characterization and beautiful language. In fact the work could be read as a series of
Feb 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"There is no such thing as autobiography, there is only art and lies"

What a gem.

As everyone who knows me personally know that Jeanette Winterson is my absolute favourite author without any competition, and this book was not a dissapointment. It's just... ah. The thing with Jeanette Winterson's books is that I always seem to pick them up at the exact right time of my life, and I even read the exact right section at the exact right time. I could be thinking about something in the back of my head,
Sarah Maguire
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is quite the most extraordinary book I have read, certainly for a long time - perhaps ever, and I am totally at a loss as to how to describe it. It is, by turns, lyrical, floating, earthy, irreverent, poignant, soaring, wince-inducing, and (occasionally) incomprehensible. Were anyone to demand a synopsis, certainly of the traditional 'beginning-middle-end' type, I would be hard pushed to give one, but that in no way detracts from it. The nearest thing I can compare it to is listening to ...more
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it
A strange, compelling, bold novel. Not at all what I had expected from the author of "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit". "Art and Lies" had everything that her autobiographical book lacked: lush imagery, myth and poetry, the absence of a straightforward plot. It's a book without constraints, and that's what makes it both highly original and difficult.

I'm glad that I've picked up this novel, though: thanks to it I got to know Winterson in a whole new way. And more than ever, I admire her wit and
Hanna  (lapetiteboleyn)
The strange lives of Sappho, Handel and Picasso (who are not who you think they are) entwine and separate in a series of musings that lands somewhere between self-indulgent philosophising and vignettes. It's not a hard read, and at times it's brutally funny, at other times it's just brutal. I wouldn't say it's one of Jeanette Winterson's best (Oranges-, Written on the Body,) but it's insightful and interesting nonetheless.
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2015 Reading Chal...: Art and Lies by Jeanette Winterson 3 25 Oct 13, 2015 11:40AM  

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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 ...more

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“After loss of Identity, the most potent modern terror, is loss of sexuality, or, as Descartes didn’t say, "I fuck therefore I am".” 125 likes
“Know thyself,’ said Socrates.
Know thyself,’ said Sappho, ‘and make sure that the Church never finds out.”
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