GUT SYMMETRIES by Jeanette Winterson


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 Always a narrative daredevil and linguistic voluptuary, Winterson (Art and Lies, 1995, etc.) sustains a level of writing here that's at once incantatory, discursive, and passionate: a breath-taking Joycean romp that explores the mysteries of love in a world freed from common sense by the wonders of modern math and physics. Winterson's story is, in part, about a love triangle. Two physicists meet on the QE2 en route to New York: He's an Italian- American from the Lower East Side whose mother made a fortune as an importer. Now a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study, Giovanni Baptiste Rossetti (nicknamed ``Jove'') revels in his literary forerunners, from the mythic King of Gods to Mozart's seduced. His fantasies of primacy and potency express themselves in his affair with Alice (short for Alluvia) Fairfax, an English scientist on her way to the Institute--herself in the grip of a millennial fever, and willing to entertain the alchemical and religious dimensions of her work. But the neat symmetry of things is changed when Alice meets Stella, Jove's wife. Expecting a dumpy harridan, Alice discovers an elegant poet, with whom she begins an affair, much to Jove's dismay. The daughter of refugees from Nazi Germany, Stella balances her mother's practical nature with her Jewish father's visionary rantings. Indeed, the new physics comes to parallel the wisdom of the Jewish mystics, at least in Winterson's heady view. In a world of ``scraps,'' each lover seeks wholeness, whether in God or science. As improbable as the narrative connections become, they make perfect sense on the level that really matters here: Winterson's ``aerodynamics of risk.'' Winterson cleverly undercuts her highbrow riffing with puns, playlets, and poetry, reasserting in her art the most essential of points: ``Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.'' A major book, by any standard. (First printing of 40,000)

Pub Date: April 10th, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45475-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1997


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