"What happened to the omniscient author?"
While many other novels are still nursing hangovers from the 20th century, Jeanette Winterson's The.PowerBook has risen early to greet the challenge of the new millennium. Set in cyberspace, The.PowerBook travels with ease. It casts the net of its love story over Paris, Capri and London. Interactive narrator Ali is a "language costumier" who will swathe your imagination in the clothes of transformation. All you have to do is decide who you want to be. Ali--known also as Alix--is a virtual narrator in a networked world of e-writing. You are the reader, invited to inhabit the story--any story--you wish to be told. Like all the best video games you can choose your location, your character, even the clothes you want to wear. Beware, you can enter and play the game, but you cannot determine its outcome.
Ali/x is a digital Orlando for the modern age, moving across time and through transmutations of identity, weaving her stories with "long lines of laptop DNA" and shaping herself to the reader's desire. Ali/x wants to make love as simple as a song. But even in cyberspace there is no love without pain. Ali/x offers a stranger on the other side of the screen the opportunity of freedom for one night. She falls in love with her beautiful stranger, and finds herself reinvented by her own story.
The.PowerBook is rich with historical allegory and literary allusion. Winterson's dialogue crackles with humour, snappy dialogue and good jokes, several of which are at the author's own expense. This is a world of disguise, boundary crossing and emotional diversions that change the navigation of the plot of life. Strangely sprouting tulips are erected in place of the phallus. Husbands and wives are uncoupled. Lovers disappear in the night to escape from themselves. On the hard drive of the The.PowerBook are stored a variety of stories which the reader can download and open at will, complete stories that loop through the central narrative. The tale of Mallory's third expedition, the disinterring of a Roman Governor in Spitalfields Church or the contemplation of "great and ruinous lovers" are capsules of narrative compression. In Winterson's compacted meaning, language becomes a character in its own right--it is one of the heroes of the novel.
"What I am seeking to do in my work is to make a form that answers to 21st-century needs," Winterson wrote in "A Work of My Own". The.PowerBook answers these needs. Winterson's prose has found a metaphor for its linguistic forms of creation that feels almost invented for her, "a web of co-ordinates that will change the world." There will be a virtual rush of Internet-themed books in the networked noughties. With The.PowerBook Winterson has triumphantly got there first. --Rachel Holmes
"Gorgeously written, shockingly moving...a wonderful, unforgettable read. Buy it for someone you really love" (Mail on Sunday
"Winterson writes with evangelical assurance, vaulting ambition, total control...witty, original, and good at what she does" (Observer
"Winterson is a rangy pirate, a world-swashbuckler, a plunderer of stories, literatures and hearts" (Scotsman
"Mischievous and intelligent, determined to provoke thoughts about love's reason, and its risk" (The Times
"Brilliant, evocative writing... Winterson never seems to put a foot wrong... It is funny, clever, entertaining and wholly delightful" (Spectator