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The PowerBook Paperback – October 9, 2001

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375725059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375725050
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #412,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Composed in tight, spare prose echoing Web communications, Winterson's seventh novel takes its cues from the Internet, where reality is implied but never inherent. Like the protagonist of her previous novel, Written on the Body, narrator Ali is not defined by sex. An Internet writer, she/he creates stories for people, offering "Freedom, just for one night," allowing her e-mail clients to be whoever they want to be. In return, they are required to understand that, like customers at Verde, the famous old costume shop in London where Ali lives, they may enter as themselves and leave as someone else. Such is the transformation Ali undergoes after a brief liaison in Paris with a married woman. Falling desperately in love, Ali follows the unnamed woman to Capri and attempts to convince her to leave her husband. Entwining this love story with accounts of Turkish tulip bulbs disguised as testicles, and tales of Lancelot and Guinevere, Winterson treads a slippery slope between linear storytelling and multidimensional cyberfiction. Most conventional, but also most egregious, is a digression recounting Ali's childhood as the adopted daughter of scrap-yard owners who are terrified of straying out into the Wilderness (the real world), but still hope that one day their daughter will find the Promised Land that exists in the heart. Winterson's dashing, sensually stylish writing is marred by heavy-handed symbolism, but the concept of transformation is adeptly juggled throughout. The brightly colored jacket, featuring two suggestively limp tulips, plays directly to the sensibility of Winterson's many fans. (Nov. 3)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mr. K. Mahoney on November 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This new book navigates the seas of fiction and love. As a piece of internet prose, it easily surpasses Matt Beaumont's entertainment 'E'. Jeanette Winterson explores the opportunities offered by the net, the wardrobe door that leads to many a magical land. The heroine of this novel flits here and there, choosing exotic locations as she pleases. However, much of this book is also based in the real as much in the imaginary.
There's an ongoing plot in 'The Powerbook', a very modern love affair. It's the beauty of the prose that is really outstanding though. Winterson goes to Capri and uses the funicular railway as a metaphor in a manner that seems entirely natural, unforced, but prone to gravity. For me, there was a certain amount of nostalgia, as Winterson explores the settings of my own adolescent vacations, from the Isle of Capri near Sorrento, the romantic flirtation with Paris, the exhilarating adventure of seedy London. 'The Powerbook' lives up to its ambition of being an internet novel, since we can all attempt the Grand Tour via the Net nowadays. It's always a delight to follow in an author's footsteps, see the world through their eyes. For instance, you can find the painting of his wife Saskia as Flora on the net by Rembrandt. At first sight, this picture seems too dark to be the image that Winterson describes, but it's a delight to look at the picture again through her prose.
There's a section here where Winterson seems to return to the 'real life' of 'Oranges are not the Only Fruit', and it's very compelling to find a horror of nothing, the fear of having to invent, the burden of having to create. It does seem, though, that Winterson has been following current literary trends, borrowing and embellishing what she fancies.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Christos Polydorou on October 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Jeanette Winterson's The Powerbook manages to accomplish in only 289 pages what other books cannot accomplish in 1000...suggesting that all time is one. Winterson has made it perfectly clear elsewhere ("Art Objects: Essays on Ecstacy and Effrontery") that "all art belongs to a single period". Winterson interweaves myth, fact, history, drama, comedy, charm, wit, all in a mesmerizing voice that carries itself in a blend of rhythm, logic, revelation, beauty.
What is particularly fascinating about this novel is that there is no plot, but a series of themes that run through the fragmented novel. It is as though she has grabbed a whole of beauty, smashed it, and reassembled it. A few readings show that the otherwise unrelated characters do have some dependancy on each other, to continue the story where their mentioning ends, to reveal nuances that their actions would otherwise obscure. This book moves through several characters, through the eyes of women and men, and we find out what it is like to feel and act anf love like a man and as a woman. Francesca loves Paolo and we fall in love with him too (the haunting line "Paolo il bello" resonates) but through the story of Guinevere and Lancelot it is through Lancelot's eyes that we are, and the object of our affection is Guinevere.
This is a fully realised work, and if we compare Oranges and this we see vast makes me wonder what novels Jeanette Winterson will be composing for the next 30 to 40 years of her life. I, for one, will read them all upon moment of publication.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you're someone who loves the power of words, who loves lush, poetic prose and the images it can conjure, the magic it can work, then you will probably love Jeanette Winterson's beautiful novel, "The Powerbook."
"The Powerbook" explores Winterson's recurring themes of time, love and gender identificantion (or the lack of it) through the story of Ali/Alix, a woman living in cyberworld and reinventing herself at another's command. But reinventing yourself doesn't come without a price as Ali/Alix soon finds out. Will she pay it? And if she does, will it be worth the price?
For me, "The Powerbook" is Jeanette Winterson at her very best. Everything that was so wonderful in her previous novels comes together in this one. She tells stories, she writes the most lyrically divine prose, she uses linear time and circular time, she anchors herself in reality while letting herself soar on flights of fancy.
"The Powerbook" is art for the sake of art. Although some would argue that "art for the sake of art," especially in the literary realm, is nothing but conceit, Winterson herself, has stated differently and I agree with her. Art, she said, is our opportunity to get things right. To tell the truth. To find the ultimate reality. And she's right. Art doesn't deceive us, except on very rare occasions, and when those rare occasions do occur, we're angry with the artist.
I know that many people will read this book and wail, "But that's not real life!" Those who do should stop and reread the book once again. And even again and again if need be. It's life that tells us lies, either deliberately or by omission, life that deceives, life that denies us the rich world of fantasy and imagination and creative invention...
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