I want to write Literature: Reaction to “Oranges”

I am about forty pages away from finishing Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. As I’ve been reading, I’ve somehow felt called not to annotate, underline, or make any sort of markings in the book. Not yet at least. Dog-earing is all I’ve allowed myself to do. Maybe because it’s the first book I’ve read in a long time that I’m actually hoping to reread right after I finish it. There is something about this book. What is it? I’ve been trying to figure it out, because I wouldn’t say it’s my new favorite book and it’s certainly not a book I would recommend to each and every person I come across–that kind of gusto I leave for Mary Schaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This is a very odd book. That’s for sure. So what is it?

As I sat down to read the last section of the 224 page novel, I was struck again by the style of writing the author uses. She passes through time, nothing is linear; she freely goes between relating specific events, to feelings, to statements of what is possible and what is not possible, to snippets of stories that are like fairytales; everything is all over the place and yet everything is together. In short, this modern piece of literature is about as far away from Bright Purple as you can possibly get (that is, besides them both dealing with issues of religion and sexual orientation).

And that’s when I realized: I want to write literature.

…I didn’t realize how much of myself, my own critical eye, my own inner spirals of thought, my own voice I might be losing if I wrote something straight forward…

Wow. Duh, right? An English major wants to write literature. Not very original, huh? But think about it. As I’ve said before, this senior seminar class has shown me that English majors–like other Humanities folk–don’t often fall into the “obvious” fields of work or art that people think they do. We all don’t become teachers, professors, and fiction writers.

For a couple years, knowing that I wanted to write fiction, I felt drawn towards the young adult genre. Why? Because that’s the demographic that’s being put out there, selling copies, making movies, etc. etc. Sure, why wouldn’t a starving artist want to make it one day? Of course I’d love for my books to become movies so that I could reach a larger audience with whatever issues my books are tackling. But I didn’t realize how much of myself, my own critical eye, my own inner spirals of thought, my own voice I might be losing if I wrote something straight forward like Melody Carlson‘s Bright Purple: Color Me Confused.

Not that there is anything wrong with Carlson’s novel. I think it did what she intended it to do. And it work. But that’s not the kind of book I want to write. In fact, feeling like I have to be shoved into this containing box of straight-forward-young-adult-entertaining-novel has really made me struggle with my longing to write. I’ve hit a writer’s block over and over again with every new thing I try to start. And I blame it all on my overwhelming schedule as a college student–which, let’s be honest, is also really not too far off the mark. But when I picked up Oranges this morning and read just two pages, I felt the desire to write again. I cannot tell you what that felt like to me as a writer who has been struggling to find her lost love again. And maybe I won’t start to write for a while. Maybe not for a month or two or not until I graduate. But hope is there and I can’t just sweep it under the rug.


2 thoughts on “I want to write Literature: Reaction to “Oranges”

  1. When I read Winterson (one of my favorite novels of hers is Written on the Body) I always think of her mother’s comment (as conveyed in Winterson’s memoir): why be happy if you can be normal? Perhaps writing, for Winterson, is an important part of happiness!? and creating happiness–not normality–for others?


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