Jeanette Winterson …. the trouble with books

15 thoughts on “Jeanette Winterson …. the trouble with books”

  1. Funnily enough I finally watched the Imagine programme last night and was impressed as ever by Jeanette Winterson. The fate of libraries is a subject close to my heart having worked in libraries myself. The other day I joined what is now Keats Community Library, formerly a Camden public library but lucky enough to be in Hampstead next door to Keats House. I had slightly mixed feelings about this but as it is now run by a charity I felt it good to support it. I love all those philanthropically donated Carnegie and other such libraries and hope they can survive in some way.

    1. Yes, it works, Les – and what a great speech! I especially love the line, ‘It is difficult to subdue a fully literate people. They are exposed to too many different trains of thought. They are taught to question, to challenge, to argue.’ And the concept of librarians as outlaws challenges the stereotype (one of the moments my daughter enjoys most in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, is the revelation that in the alternative life had George not lived, and in the absence of marriage to George, Mary is a spinster – signified by being both a librarian and wearing glasses!). Just as with Winterson, Janis Ian says the library saved her life: ‘The library was my safe haven, my sanctuary, the only place that understood my inner world. The library taught me that somewhere out there were others like me.’
      ‘Books fill the empty pages of our hearts. They leave their language on our souls’ Superb. Thanks once again, Les, for taking us somewhere special.

  2. No comment I make can do justice to the care with and sensitivity which this wonderful post has been written.
    Books, too, for me, have been central to my life, though unlike Jeanette, I was encouraged to read them.
    Libraries are being ‘dumbed down’, just when they ought to be ‘smartened up’. They could well be hubs of our neighbourhoods, not ghostly shells.

    1. Thanks, Faisal, for your kind comments. Check out the link from kaufmans123 in these comments for another inspiring take on the importance of libraries.

  3. Like Jeanette, I will never forget and always be grateful for my first public library. In the poor schools I was sent to, learning took an awkward third place behind discipline and religion. So my real education was largely self-driven, in a well stocked public library, overseen by a Head Librarian who had noticed how much I liked being there.

    So the situation you describe generally about library closures is of course distressing. But so is this tendency here in Liverpool to keep them open as ‘one stop shops’ – pseudo libraries containing very few books and a rag-bag selection of council services. These allow us to think we are running a responsible city by keeping most of our libraries open. But in fact, to the curious child, they must be nearly useless.

    In a culture of here today, gone tomorrow blog posts this is a serious contribution to the future of our society. Thank you Gerry.

    1. Cheers, Ronnie. I take your point about ‘pseudo libraries containing very few books and a rag-bag selection of council services’. But, I don’t know, is it better to keep a library open, even if it means sacrificing some of the space given over to books? At least if the library is still there, local to people, they’ll be able to use the efficient service for ordering books from other branches – and, it does seem that more people are likely to be reading e-books, so you might still be able to offer the same service in less space. I don’t know.

  4. Thanks for the blog Gerry which sparked off lots of memories for me. Being a Jeanette Winterson fan I also watched the excellent Imagine documentary. Having enjoyed ‘Oranges’ book and film I thought I would introduce a different book to my Book group in 2009. I chose ‘The Passion’ (1987) because I thought it was about Venice but it turned out to be more about Napoleon and not a straight forward read. Although a bit weird it was fascinating and i must hunt out the film having just found my notes.
    I must write about the power of books in my childhood and a Carnegie library i stumbled on in 2011 when I was researching my family history in north Notts.

  5. Thanks, this is a lovely posting and some of the Libraries in Liverpool appear to be very beautiful buildings.
    I have happy memories of childhood visits to Eastbourne Central Library. Later as a teenager, i spent quite a lot of time there working for my o levels.
    My mother in law volunteers for the local library on the edge of Leeds as staff have been with drawn. The reality is, it is hardly used at all. Kindle, e bay and Charity shops on main bus routes make all these places easier options for getting books.

    The busiest local Library in Leeds is at Moor Allerton. However, it is not busy by any stretch of the imagination.
    What a dilemma. Is this good spending? Or will tomorrows Wintertons reference Kindle, e bay, Amazon and Oxfam for their literary successes? My boys, 24 and 2o, devour books on all kinds of subjects.Most come from Charity shops.
    Personally I have more than six hundred books in my office and others at home. A gadget will never replace paper for me, but in ten years time I think it will have done for many other people.
    Thanks again for the post. Andy.

  6. What a wonderful tribute to the value of public libraries and the enduring importance of books. The basic philosophy of the public library movement is as relevant today as it was in the mid nineteenth century. It is good to see that several of those marvellous library buildings have received funding for restoration.

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