ISBN is

978-0-375-41111-3 / 0375411119

The PowerBook

by Winterson, Jeanette

Publisher:Knopf

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

While many other novels are still nursing hangovers from the 20th century, The PowerBook has risen early to greet the challenge of the new millennium. Set in cyberspace, Jeanette Winterson's seventh novel (or eighth, if you count her disowned Boating for Beginners) travels with ease, casting the net of its love story over Paris, Capri, and London. Its interactive narrator, Ali, is a "language costumier" who will swathe your imagination in the clothes of transformation: all you have to do is decide whom 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. As in 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, but you cannot determine the 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. She 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 humor, snappy dialogue, and good jokes, several of which are at her 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 PowerBook are stored a variety of stories that 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 the Roman Governor of London 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 has written. The PowerBook does just that. Her prose has found a metaphor for its linguistic forms of creation that feels almost invented for her, "a web of coordinates that will change the world." There will be a virtual rush of Internet-themed books in the networked naughties. With The PowerBook Winterson has triumphantly gotten there first. --Rachel Holmes

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