THE POWERBOOK by Jeanette Winterson


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Winterson (Gut Symmetries, 1997; The World and Other Places, 1999; etc.) offers up a show-think-talk-imagine computerescent kaleidoscope that at its heart is—well, a love story of endless yearning.

Imagine an elegant married woman who, in Paris, meets someone and takes him as a lover for a night, no strings attached—this being no unusual practice for said woman. Imagine, though, that actual love sparks up—and that the person taken as the lover wants and wants the married woman, forever and for keeps. Imagine that this wanting person lives in an old section of London, has a shop called Verde that specializes in new identities for people, and that this person has a computer (a Powerbook, one would guess). Imagine, also, that the person with the Powerbook is a writer, and that someone—the married woman?—e-mails the shopkeeper writer-lover with the request for “Freedom, just for one night.” Imagine that, in response, the writer writes all kinds of different stories—for example, that someone (who?) is a Turkish girl in the 16th century, bringing the first tulip bulbs (hidden in a very private place) to Holland; or that Paolo and Francesca are having their love affair all over again; or ditto with Lancelot and Guinivere. Mixed in with these stories, imagine that the lover travels to Italy on the chance of once again meeting the married woman—and does, and that the married woman agrees to come back to London but then not to stay forever. All of this—with computer-esque chapter headings like “OPEN HARD DRIVE,” and “virtual world,” and “VIEW AS ICON”—is often entertaining and vivid, but Winterson runs out of steam, begins casting about for a theoretical significance (“I'm sitting at my screen reading this story. In turn, the story reads me”), and—how to put it?—protests too much.

Much of the time arresting, thought-provoking, and delightful; for much of the remainder, oddly static and repetitive.

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-41111-9
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2000


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