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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The World and Other Places

Jeanette Winterson

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To purchase The World and Other Places

Title: The World and Other Places
Author: Jeanette Winterson
Genre: Stories
Written: 1998
Length: 228 pages
Availability: The World and Other Places - US
The World and Other Places - US
The World and Other Places - Canada
The World and Other Places - India
In dieser Welt und anderswo - Deutschland
  • Note that the English edition of this book apparently comes with an Afterword by the author. Bafflingly, this Afterword is not included in the American edition.

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Our Assessment:

B : marvelous use of language, but to little effect

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph C+ 4/7/1998 Caroline Moore
The Guardian D 20/3/1999 Ashley Stokes
The Hudson Review . Fall/1999 Alan Davis
Literary Review . 7/1998 Maggie Gee
The Observer B 5/7/1998 Anne Chisholm
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A Summer/1999 Eric Lorberer
San Francisco Chronicle A 13/6/1999 Sarah Van Arsdale
Sunday Telegraph C 27/6/1998 Carmen Callil
The Sunday Times D+ 5/7/1998 Peter Kemp
The Times B 25/6/1998 Helen Dunmore
TLS . 26/6/1998 Joyce Carol Oates
The Washington Post B+ 21/3/1999 Steven Moore

  Review Consensus:

  Everyone thinks Psalms a fine piece; otherwise there is no consensus. And those that dislike the collection really dislike it. Many critics also focus (unfairly, we suggest) on Winterson the person (i.e. the pompous lesbian nutcase she apparently comes off as being in person).

  From the Reviews:
  • "There is more about Other Places than about The World: the stories characteristically take off into the self-absorbed intensity of madness, or into fem-sci-fi, which is apt to be imaginatively exciting in the same degree that it is emotionally barren, distant from the oxygen of human life." - Caroline Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • "Winterson is increasingly writing for an audience composed of herself alone." - Ashley Stokes, The Guardian

  • "The trouble is that, in these short pieces, all Winterson's bad habits are on display as well as her strengths. (...) Nevertheless, there is an exhilarating freshness and energy to this collection." - Anne Chisholm, The Observer

  • "(T)his book shows that Winterson can sculpt her sentences as precisely in the short form as she does in the novel. Her gift for imagery is startling (...)" - Eric Lorberer, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Each short story in the collection, with a few minor exceptions, is as layered and complex as a Winterson novel, with the kind of linguistic gymnastics that Winterson fans have come to expect and with the usual intellectual mazes that have kept fans pondering her books long after turning the last page. However, by their nature, these stories are more welcoming to the reader, as Winterson knows just how much complexity each is capable of holding." - Sarah Van Arsdale, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "(Winterson) is a lazy writer, too often repetitive and overblown. She repeats words, just as she repeats questions, phrases, ideas - exactly like a fundamentalist preacher exhorting ignorant sinners." - Carmen Callil, Sunday Telegraph

  • "(Psalms) stands here, in its quirky vitality, as a reminder that (Winterson) was once an author to reckon with. The reminder is sadly needed. For the other 16 stories in this collection exorbitantly display the qualities that have so eroded her talent that she now seems little more than a pantomime presence on the literary scene, always to be relied on for some farcical outburst of self-promotion or self-praise." - Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times

  • "Continuous eloquence wearies, as Pascal has said. Yet continuous whimsy wearies yet more. Still, amid even fragments and slapstick comedy, a genuine cry of the heart will lift (.....) The strongest stories in The World and Other Places are those in which the author takes time to establish a coherent, distinctive voice, and elaborates on subjects she respects." - Times Literary Supplement, Joyce Carol Oates

  • "Excess and intensity are the key words here, admirable both as character traits and as components of a lively literary style. While few of these stories display the excess and intensity of Winterson's novels, none of them could be called banal." - Steven Moore, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Please note that this review is based on the American edition which, unlike the English edition, does not contain Winterson's explanatory Afterword.

       The World and Other Places collects short stories from throughout Jeanette Winterson's career. It is a motley collection of short, often frail pieces, with different ends and purposes in mind.
       Some things Winterson does well -- her anonymous narrators teasingly don't show their gender, some of her broad parables are well-conceived, and her language -- though it can sound pretentious -- usually balances nicely. The main problem here is that the stories seem to have little purpose -- while sounding as though they should be of great import.
       A few are fairly successful. Disappearance I and it's sleepless-nightmare vision is well done, as is the beautifully concise story The Three Friends. Some of the stories remind of her other fictions, obvious tangents and off-shoots: Newton is a variation on the physics from Gut Symmetries, Psalms revisits the theocratical childhood of Oranges are not the only Fruit, and Picasso and Sappho (from Art and Lies) appear in the interesting polemic The Poetics of Sex.
       The stories read well, and Winterson does come up with fine turns of phrase and interesting images and thoughts. She tells her stories fairly well, and still the collection seems almost a void, so little is there to it.
       It makes a decent read, but it is not especially provocative, nor do any of the stories go far enough to truly excite or interest. Short fiction is become, like poetry, a watered down and largely forgettable form. A few writers can still do something with it, but Winterson falls short.
       Vaguely recommended.

       Note that one story in particular has been critically much maligned: The 24-Hour Dog, the first in the collection (though Helen Dunmore calls it "one of Winterson's best" in The Times). It does stand as representative of all the worst in Winterson's writing. We did not mind the highfalutin language so much as we did the actual story (narrator buys dog, keeps him for a day, brings him back, because he is too much for the narrator). Charming as the concept may be (and we admit it is not our idea of a story under any circumstance) in Winterson's voice it sounds particularly horrible. But this probably is the worst story in the collection, so don't be put off the whole collection on the basis of it alone.

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The World and Other Places: Reviews: Jeanette Winterson: Other books by Jeanette Winterson under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction

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About the Author:

       British author Jeanette Winterson was born in 1959. She won the 1985 Whitbread Award for best first novel (for Oranges are not the only Fruit), the 1987 John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize, and the 1989 E.M.Forster Award, among others.

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