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Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,722 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
In these ten intertwined essays, one of our most provocative young novelists proves that she is just as stylish and outrageous an art critic. For when Jeanette Winterson looks at works as diverse as the "Mona Lisa" and Virginia Woolf's "The Waves," she frees them from layers of preconception and restores their power to exalt and unnerve, shock and transform us.
"Art Objects
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 4th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1995)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Jan 02, 2016 marked it as goldfinch-in-juice  ·  review of another edition
There used to be something called The Canon

This was regularly used to blast iconoclasts who said terrible things at tea parties, such as ‘Surely Katherine Mansfield is as fine writer as Proust?’
The Canon allowed no debate; it guarded the entry and exit points to the Hall of Fame and stood firmly behind t(T)he t(T)imes.
When not routing offenders in petticoats it fired warning shots over the heads of the uneducated. The Canon was admirably free from modern Existentialist Doubt.
It knew who belonged
Andrea Paterson
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I wish that I could spend just a single afternoon with Jeanette Winterson. This book was transformative. If you have an interest in literature as an evolving art form, if you are interested in how to be a reader or what it means to be an artist, or if you're just a person searching for deeper meaning in a shallow world, you need to read this book.

While I was resistant to some of the philosophical principles presented here this book provided lots to think about and launched a reevaluation of my
Ally Armistead
Oct 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not only can she write beautiful novels and short stories, but Jeanette Winterson can hold her own as a solid philosopher, art critic, and essayist. "Art Objects" is just that--a meditation on art and the men and women who create and view it. Whether discussing the Mona Lisa or Gertude Stein's poetry or Virginia Woolf's The Waves, Winterson explores the complexities of learning to "sit" with art, allowing what at first seems perplexing and foreign to seep in, confuse us, and open us to enlighten ...more
Jul 15, 2012 added it
I read this book again as an escape at lunchtime while I was doing a summer language course. When I read it this time, I paid special attention to what she had to say about art and artists. Art, in her opinion is as essentail as eating and breathing. Infact, she might say why do the first two, if you don't have the third. As is well publicized by now, JW attempted to commit suicide just a few years ago. She pulled her heavy load out of the black whole she was in to go on to give the world more g ...more
Apr 05, 2010 rated it liked it
It's really more like 3.5 stars- Winterson is fantastic when she writes about other writers, but when she introduces examples from her own work, she sounds too cocky. There's something really young about her voice here, too, but also something enjoyable and new. I still recommend reading it, just not every single essay.
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Så befriande läsning som kontrast till den idiotiska debatten kring kritiken för närvarande rasar på våra kultursidor.
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Ecstasy and Effrontery weren't exaggerations: I can't say i especially enjoyed reading this book, but it's resonated with me more strongly than other books i enjoyed reading much more.
Winterson is totally passionate and unashamedly subjective about her approach to Art, she argues for her version of it through her personal favourites, through poetic use of language, through inflammatory opinions. i found that quite offputting until chatting to my housemate about her work: she said she loved it fo
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book, as others have said, is not necessarily revolutionary, but it made me reexamine everything I have have ever learned or taught myself about art.

It changed me.

This is going to sound really cheesy, but it's not - I mean it in the deepest sense...there is this one passage in the book that I think perfectly articulates what it is to really feel something to core, and one of those things that you feel is what love really is. It is in her passage about Complex Emotion in "The Semiotics of Se
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
After dog-earing far too many pages, I realized I'm just going to have to buy myself a copy and reread this, on occasion, for the rest of my life. The chapter 'Reality and Imagination' is my favourite, I want to make photocopies and send it to people! :)
Ali Berkok
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A tremendous manifesto. If you are a maker you would do well to read this and get all fired up inside.
Nov 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book made me so angry. I hated reading it, but I forced myself to finish it. I originally picked it up because I loved the bits of it read in class. As I started it, I loved each essay and how it made me reevaluate art. However, a few essays in, I realized they were all the same. Winterson is just a bitter old lady. Every essay is a rant about how certain things are done, how nothing is any good anymore, how people don't appreciate art. Additionally, the end of an essay has nothing to do wi ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A provocative, inspiring, and passionate collection of essays on the power and purpose of art and literature. Winterson begins by writing about falling in love with a painting and then with painting in general--extending a trip to Amsterdam to spend full days at the art museum and nights reading about painting, figuring out how to enter the artwork. She continues with essays that explore the transformative power of good writing, about Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and her ...more
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: artists and thinking people everywhere
Winterson articulates why art is essential and relevant in such a way that puts passion over pretension. It objects to the safe and the known. It shows us another way. It is essential to the forward movement of humanity. [Note to pretentious dudes holding forth on Art in San Francisco sushi joints: Please read this book before you go around having philosophical discussions about Art in public places, so that by understanding many before you have written on these subjects more thoughtfully and mo ...more
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Wonderfully enjoyable read. Makes you think and think differently as well. The writing demands slowness of pace and deep attention but it repays you with its beauty and exactitude. Strongly opinionated and not remotely apologetic about that. Has the knowledge to back up the assertions and assumes an intelligent reader who will think for themselves anyway.

The essay on art has got me looking at paintings more attentively, my old fascination with T S Eliot has been rekindled and I'm planning on re
Aug 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who cares about literature and art.
I need to own this book. And read it often.

Its exploration of art, what it is and what it does, is inspiring and challenging. It re-awakens my longing to be a person who lives a life of wakefulness and meaning -- a person who sacrifices much to attain the pearl of great price, and great beauty.

This is an excellent text. And my appreciation is certainly not diminished by the fact that its author finds much of the same life and power in Virginia Woolf's texts as I do.
Dec 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Winterson talking on art - her passion and her life's work - is an amazing thing to read. Her language is a hypnotic, finely crafted dreamscape, and is a beautiful place to romp for a while. She is obsessively in love with art, and angry at a society which seems to have no place for it. The passion, the dreamscape, the obsession all combine to create a very, very powerful work; a work which heats, tempers, excites the reader.
Jan 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I somehow thought this book would be about a writer finding how to look at paintings. And the first essay is and I really loved it. The remaining essays are about writers and writing. Here I found some revelatory ideas but to me the tone was often strident and I grew impatient. I know this book gets rave reviews and I feel somewhat of a heretic.

I do recommend the first essay especially to Erin as food for ekphrastic.
Vivienne Strauss
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
For the most part, I really loved this book and it makes me want to be a less lazy reader and challenge myself more with my choices. Much to think about here though at times I found her to be rather pretentious and annoying.
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
She is self-assured as fuck, so most of what she writes is convincing.
Lauren G
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Definitely demands periodic rereading.
Jan 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
I'd say Winterson should stick to the novels. She's old school naive in her criticism & I felt annoyed with her the entire time I read this.
Simona Dreca
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biblioteca
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
John Pistelli
I read this collection of essays concurrently with Winterson's novel, Art and Lies, and I suspect they were written concurrently, as there is much overlap in both books' arguments about art and society—and the didacticism of Winterson's fiction and the lyricism of her non-fiction only increases the similarity. Since I discussed Winterson's political and social thought at length in my review of Art and Lies—in brief, she is a Romantic anti-capitalist, a radical-reactionary aesthete—I will confine ...more
Orna Ross
Oct 30, 2012 rated it liked it
In this collection of essays Jeanette Winterson declares herself a neomodernist, with a commitment to experiment, a disdain for realism and a set of ringing certainties about art and the role of the artist. Art is transcendence, she tells us; art is play, pose and experiment; art’s job is to make it new.

“In the literature of my own language I can find little to cheer me between the publication of Four Quartets (1944) and Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop (1967),” she tells us. And issues addres
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
Infinitely rereadable & quotable, stunning & illuminating, Winterson at her best <3
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dana Jerman
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just some of my favorite quotes and insights from this fantastic collection:

“Write from your own experience’ is fine for the writing class, useless to the writer. What the writer knows has to be put away from her as though she has never known it, so that it is recalled vividly, with the shock of memory after concussion. In the act of writing the emotions of the writer are returned and recharged. They are stronger than before. This is quite opposite to other people’s perception of experience and
JSA Lowe
Sep 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
In my unlettered opinion this was Winterson's last relevant work. She'll flame me if she finds this, but that's okay, because I believe I could argue this with her most compellingly (right before she punches me in the face anyway).

This prose is so compressed, so pungent it reeks, the title essay so scathing, her takes on Stein and Woolf so crucial—at the time, pre-memoir, it offered a preciously rare insight into the process of/influences on one of our most original prose stylists, before the wo
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this collection of marvelous essays, Winterson brings manna to the artist, the writer most particularly but also the visual artist, seeking the deeper levels of what art is and does. It is also a noteworthy guide for those who partake, those who come to see art or to read language, not for entertainment but for a conscious continuous engagement. It is work, and it takes time to go beyond our own feelings in creation and response to the work itself.

She examines how that language in which words
Aug 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
"When you say ‘This work has nothing to do with me.’ When you say 'This work is boring/pointless/obscure/elitist etc’ you might be right, because you are looking at a fad, or might be wrong because the work falls so outside of the safety of your own experience that in order to keep your own world intact, you must deny the other world of the painting. This denial of imaginitive experience happens at a deeper level than our affirmation of the daily world. Every day, in countless ways, you and I co ...more
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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 assi ...more
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“Long looking at paintings is equivalent to being dropped into a foreign city, where gradually, out of desire and despair, a few key words, then a little syntax make a clearing in the silence. Art... is a foreign city, and we deceive ourselves when we think it familiar... We have to recognize that the language of art, all art, is not our mother-tongue.” 55 likes
“The healing power of art is not a rhetorical fantasy. Fighting to keep language, language became my sanity and my strength. It still is, and I know of no pain that art cannot assuage. For some, music, for some, pictures, for me, primarily, poetry, whether found in poems or in prose, cuts through noise and hurt, opens the wound to clean it, and then gradually teaches it to heal itself. Wounds need to be taught to heal themselves.” 9 likes
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