cover image The World and Other Places: Stories

The World and Other Places: Stories

Jeanette Winterson. Alfred A. Knopf, $22 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-375-40240-1

The detached awareness of Winterson's characters, with their biblically informed psyches and receptivity to the paranormal, make the 17 stories of this collection more proverbial than narrative. When in her acknowledgments Winterson (Gut Symmetries) thanks those who have ""bought or bludgeoned"" them from her, she's quite right: there's nothing fulsome here. Her spare gestures reduce prose to an eerie elemental state. In ""The 24-Hour Dog,"" the narrator's encounter with a two-month-old puppy purchased from a farmer transports her: ""The Sistine Chapel is unpainted, no book has been written. There is the moon, the water, the night, one creature's need and another's response. The moment between chaos and shape and I say his name and he hears me."" In other stories, such as ""O'Brien's First Christmas,"" the alien intrudes in the form of a midnight visitation by a tutued fairy on a downcast shopgirl. The feminist allegory ""Orion"" recasts the myth of Artemis and her predatory paramour; ""Disappearance I"" imagines a futuristic dystopia in which sleep has become as taboo as red light sex. Though the aftertaste of this unflinchingly provocative and stringently witty collection is somewhat bitter, Winterson's stories reveal another facet of a writer much acclaimed for her virtuosity and complexity. (Mar.)