I was thinking some more about Winterson's new book, especially about the end, where she subverts what should be a happy ending ("adopted child finds birth mother, who is kind and generous and the opposite in every way of the witch who adopted her").
Her adoptive mother burned books, including hers. Her birth mother (who was 16 and unmarried when Winterson was born) goes to the library and checks out all her books. Her adoptive mother kicked her out of the house for having a lesbian relationship; her birth mother is ok with that.
The only problem is that Winterson doesn't know that she wants to be welcomed into a new family. She wonders how much her misery is responsible for her success. It's her honesty with herself and her writing that make the book so good.
Winterson is not a flamboyantly expressive writer like Hélène Cixous, whose book Revirements I'm translating at the moment. Cixous thinks, rightly I believe, about the Family Romance in terms of Greek (Family) Tragedy. Winterson talks about how hard it is for her to have feelings, having had to suppress them throughout childhood because of her personal situation and because of the tight-lipped northern culture she grew up in.
I was thinking about all this in connection with another book I'm reading, Robert Hass's last collection of poetry, some of whose poems feel--to me--self indulgent. But I'll save that for another time. Except to say that in his last two books, both published since the death of Milosz, he has appropriated all of Milosz's books. I mean that on the "Also by Robert Hass" page he lists his translations as if they were his own work, "with the author," making no distinction between original works (his books of poetry) and his translations of others' work.