Author Jeanette Winterson has been criticised for burning her newly re-published books for “turning” her into “women’s fiction”.
In a tweet posted on Friday (4 June), Winterson wrote: “Absolutely hated the cosy little domestic blurbs on my new covers. Turned me into wimmins fiction of the worst kind! Nothing playful or strange or the ahead of time stuff that’s in there. So I set them on fire.”
Winterson, who has published more than a dozen books since 1985, set fire to republished versions of her novels The Passion (1987), Written on the Body (1992) and Art and Lies (1995) and The Powerbook (2000)
Defending her actions, she toldThe Guardian: “Each of those books was doing something different at the time, both with form and content.
“The Passion was both a way of reimagining the historical novel and it had a cross dressed narrator. Written on the Body had a non-binary narrator. The Powerbook was an early virtual and blended reality experience, that bent time as well as gender. The blurbs had none of this and turned the books into the tame and the obvious.”
She said that a friend told her the books made her “sound like Mills & Boon”.
Waterson, who said she was “incandescent” when she first saw the copies, continued: “The publishers are fixing the problem but these are not copies I want to keep. I gave most of them away to charity but needed a symbolic burning to raise my spirits. I am the writer I am. But I wouldn’t buy one of my books with those suburban blurbs.
“I am quick tempered as people know. But I come back down pretty quick too and see the funny side.”
On Saturday (5 June), she wrote on Twitter: “Re the Burning of the Books, I would just add that I have never burned anyone else’s books; not even awful ones sent in the post. And to those worried about my contribution to global warming , I have solar panels, air source heating, I live in a wood, and cycle to the Co-op!”
However, her actions have received backlash from her readers, as well as authors of the fiction that she criticised.
Many suggested she would have had to sign off on the copies, and argued that the post was nothing more than a publicity stunt.
Author Jane Fallon wrote: “I hope Jeanette Winterson’s publishers tweet the email they almost certainly sent asking her if the blurbs were OK. Because you all know that happened, right?”
Another write, Claire Allan, added: “That Jeanette Winterson thinks ‘wimmin’s fiction’ can’t be playful, strange, or ahead of its time makes me think she has never actually read any ‘wimmin’s fiction’.”
Writer Rowan Coleman said: “Nice publicity stunt from Jeanette Winterson. Shame she has to attack other women to pull it off. “
She added in a reply to Winterson’s second tweet: “Trashing other women’s work to get a few tweets. Low. Pathetic.”
The Independent has contacted Penguin for comment.