An initial, erroneous reading of the critical debate reflected in this book would be that Winterson’s early novels met with huge popular and critical success, but that it has been downhill all the way since then. Certainly that is a narrative constructed by some of the reviewers, particularly by Maya Jaggi in her profile of Winterson in 2004, when she quotes approvingly Michèle Roberts’s claim that during the novelist’s ‘middle period’ the texts became self-indulgently ‘about art for art’s sake, language for language’s sake’,1 and lost all sense of telling a story. Winterson herself, in this interview, seems to concur with her confession that the 1990s was a ‘dark decade’ both personally and professionally. However, this narrative of the reception ignores two facts: that the reviewers’ reception does not always echo the academic assessment; and that Winterson criticism appears to have a longer gestation period than that for many other writers. It is noticeable that essays only begin to appear some time after each text’s publication, usually ranging from four to eight years. Perhaps these dates stand testimony to Winterson’s novels being ahead of their times and academic critics only realising this much later. What is unquestionable is that to critics surveying contemporary British literature in the twenty- first century, such as Rod Mengham in Introduction to Contemporary Fiction (1999), Richard Lane et al. (eds) in Contemporary British Fictions (2003) and Jago Morrison in Contemporary Fiction (2003), Winterson has a status that demands not merely her inclusion, but a whole chapter to herself.
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