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The Powerbook
by Jeanette Winterson

Winterson enfolds her seventh novel within the world of computers, and transforms the signal development of our time into a wholly human medium. The story is simple: an e-mail writer called Ali will compose anything you like, on order, provided you're prepared to enter the story as yourself and risk leaving it as someone else. You can be the hero of your own life. You can have freedom just for one night. But there is a price, and Ali discovers that she, too, will have to pay it.
      The PowerBook reinvents itself as it travels from London to Paris, Capri, and Cyberspace, using fairy tales, contemporary myths, and popular culture to weave a story of failed but requited love.


 
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (1 of 36), Read 75 times Conf: Reading List From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 12:10 AM Jeanette Winterson (b. 1959) grew up in a house with only 6 books. One of them was Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, which she read in the outhouse with a flashlight. (The Bible was read indoors.) She left home at the age of 16. According to a 1997 interview with Salon.com, she is a 'pixie,' has been called a 'lesbian desperado,' and had a torrid affair with her agent, the wife of writer Julian Barnes. She has recently edited a new edition of Virginia Woolf's fiction and she writes a regular column for "The Guardian" newspaper. Her official Web site is http://www.jeanettewinterson.com. The Powerbook is (loosely) about Ali, whom I will call a woman, and whom Winterson calls a 'language costumier.' Ali hangs in the non-linear, digital world of virtual reality and hypertext, where she transcends time and gender. Ali's day job is never revealed, but by night she promises her e-clients a place in the virtual story of their choice, with the understanding that 'you’re prepared to enter the story as yourself and risk leaving it as someone else.' I have a number of comments/questions about this book, but I'll limit myself to one for now. While reading The Powerbook, I never felt like I was in a digital world. I contend that trying to place virtual reality between fixed covers is futile. Let the discussion begin… Sara
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (2 of 36), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 10:36 AM Torrid affair? Details, please. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (3 of 36), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Bambi Bambi bambi201@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 11:04 AM Hello Sara, I´m not sure if it´s you, but I got this address from the JW readers site. From Sara. I didn´t have the feeling I was actually AT a computer either, while reading the book. But I DID experience the thrill I get from, connecting with people, entering exciting sites, ore just surfing on The Net. So to me she did succeed in creating a digital world on the page of a book. I didn´t feel I was sitting at a computer, I felt like I was in the fantasy of being inside a digital world. So it´s definite not a "futile" attempt. In fact I think that the description itself as "futile" misses the point completely. How much did this lack of "cyberfeeling" influence your opinion about the book?
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (4 of 36), Read 54 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 11:38 AM I suspect that the details are best left to your imagination, Dick. The virtual "torrid" in your head will most probably then be far more torrid that the actual torridness of it all. I am in between on this futility question, Sara and Bambi. I certainly understood that the little stories and fables were composed and sent via e-mail. Am I correct that these two women did actually meet, and that those interim dialogues and trysts between the two of them in Paris and hither and yon actually took place? Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (5 of 36), Read 52 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 12:03 PM I felt that the cyber setting was nothing more than the author's device to launch and move the text which could have been told in the form used without any need of or any benefit from the cyber presentation. Ninety-nine percent of the telling was cyber free. I enjoyed the book, BUT I find the substance thin. The conversations seem, to me, to be crystalline true or real. The mood tales are delightfully told. The sum just isn't there because the characters' character is limited to the come-or-go question. I use the word "text" in the paragraph above, because I am uncomfortable using the words "story" or "narrative" with respect to this book. Same goes for "telling". The book is an artful construct, beautiful in its way. It doesn't gain credit because of the form; that is not new. pres
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (6 of 36), Read 53 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 12:58 PM I pretty much agree with Pres. Lift the cyber connection from the book, and it still remains more or less intact. I had to keep reminding myself of the cyber connection anyway. That part of it came no more alive for me than it did for Sara. I think where the writing shone was in each vignette, rather than in the connecting tissue. Ruth Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup. Anon.
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (7 of 36), Read 50 times Conf: Reading List From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 01:33 PM Well said, Pres. There might be those who would argue that your choice of the word 'text,'and refusal to use 'story,' may mean Winterson did succeed at placing us in a hypertext, if not digital, environment. Bambi, I don't think that I am the Sara you found last night, but, hey, who knows -- I was moving around on the JW sites. To answer your question, my enjoyment of the book was not affected at all by the fact that I never felt like I was in a digital world. My favorite pieces in the book were what Winterson calls "covers" of literary classics. I experimented with that idea myself in a series of books I printed several years ago. Dick, no details of 'torrid' were provided, but there is more of interest on the mind of JW at http://www.salon.com/april97/winterson970428.html. (That'll cost you $13.) Sara
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (8 of 36), Read 51 times Conf: Reading List From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 01:20 PM I agree with you, pres, that the cyber aspect did not come to the fore and I was very glad of that. Bambi, I, also, got the feeling of moving but I didn't feel that I was surfing the web so much as actually being transported from place to place and time to time. I felt that she took me beyond the usual web surfing experience. Like the Internet, she has links between stories. These links were in the form of words repeated with different connotations which provided resonance to the experience. This, of course, is in addition to her excellent writing. I always enjoyed the locations and what I experienced there was a delight. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (9 of 36), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 02:39 PM I think I disagree that failure to more accurately or completely portray cyberspace did not negatively effect the telling of the story. One of the reasons (perhaps the reason, in my mind) the narrative technique was unreflective of any kind of actual cyberspace experience (how's that for a concept?) was that it was devoid of all the actual cyberspace fingerprints: url's, headers, e-mail addresses, etc. Those items are the indelible hallmarks of internet communication (and inextricable aspects of such communications) and by removing them Winterson succeeds primarily in creating obscurity in the narrative flow, to no good end that I could see. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to lick your own cyberspace stamps." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (10 of 36), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 03:47 PM Okay. My assumption above was clearly wrong to some extent. The book opens with the tulip fable in "OPEN HARD DRIVE." (A real attention-getter, I might add. Winterson clearly wants to establish early on that she can talk dirty with the best of 'em.) Then in "terrible thing to do to a flower" we have an exchange between the "women." This strikes me as an exchange far more likely to occur in a chat session than via e-mail, but I'm not going to quibble about that. The other "woman" (quotation marks because the other "woman" does not reveal his or her gender) asks Ali for another story. The "women" clearly end this session by pretending they are now in Paris. Now then, it gets really interesting because I interpret "NEW DOCUMENT" to be another story composed entirely by Ali including the dialogue between the two "women." In other words the dialogue in "NEW DOCUMENT" is entirely composed by Ali. These responses in this chapter are not the words of the other "woman" and have nothing whatsoever to do with "her" real life. The setting of the story is Paris, but they are only there virtually not in reality (setting aside the whole question of what is reality for the moment). The other "woman" may or may not be a woman, "she" may or may not have a husband she lies to, etc., etc. This whole chapter is entirely the construct of Ali, the "language costumier." Am I understanding this correctly? Does anyone agree or disagree? I will get to the quality of the writing eventually. Yes, there are some great lines, but there are also an awful lot of clinkers from my humble point of view. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (11 of 36), Read 51 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 03:51 PM Having said all that though, please look at the use of indents in the dialogue in "NEW DOCUMENT." Some statements are not indented. (The normal convention is that each new statement by a different speaker is a new paragraph and therefore indented.) Most are indented. What's the significance, if any, of that? Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (12 of 36), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 05:29 PM I haven't finished yet so I can't say much, but I don't' really have the feeling that I'm in a virtual world, I don't have the computer connection. Don't' know whether this makes a difference yet or not. I've read the "texts" as stories Ali is writing for the other one, so the part in Paris is a story she wrote on her website, or wherever, that the other can read, not that it's taking place in a virtual sense. The dialogs in between I feel are more chat room than e-mail. And I these sections kind of interrupt the rest for me. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (13 of 36), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 05:49 PM Steve: Since the book is a construct rather than a coherent telling, the author hands you the option: Solve the puzzle, analyse the text, rather than gulp it down whole as you would a gripping novel. It is just that I preferred to accept it as the puzzle solved, the pieces assembled into a whole, curious as the shape was. pres
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (14 of 36), Read 43 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 06:16 PM Re: indentations. I don't know what she's doing, but the system appears to be: each 'section' within a chapter (I say 'section', meaning one or more paragraphs separated from the preceding and following (if any) material by additional white space, ala double-double spacing), is not indented. All subsequent paragraphs are indented, until the first paragraph of the next section, usw. It's a visual thing, apparently, and Winterson seems quite interested in that aspect of the book. And I thought the first 26 pages (the tulip smuggling incident) were by far the finest in the book, followed closely by the description of Mallory's death. Hmm. Crime, sex and death -- possibly a guy thing? Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to indent your own paragraphs." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (15 of 36), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2002 10:52 PM It's pretty common in typesetting to not indent the first paragraph in a chapter, or the first paragraph after a "space break," as Dick was describing. I don't think there are any clues there. Dick, do you really think you'll see URLs and e-mail addresses in virtual reality? My idea is that I would see nothing but a high-definition picture in millions of colors, and feel like I was in it. What good is the 'love story' between the two women that runs through this book if only Ali is writing it? Is it possible to sweep oneself off one's feet and then be heartbroken? Steve, is that what you mean? Is it so 'uncool' to have a reliable narrator these days? Pres, you have taken an interesting approach to reading this book. One that takes the wind right out of its sails, I would say. Sara
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (16 of 36), Read 50 times Conf: Reading List From: Theresa Simpson theresa.a.simpson@gte.net Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 02:31 AM I've just started, and am still in Paris with the woman(en) (I'll be there myself in exactly one month!!) Maybe the indent thing is related to the way some email programs stagger a string of messages from various senders? Theresa, who thought the tulip thing was a bit too silly to work
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (17 of 36), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Bambi Bambi bambi201@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 05:11 AM Not silly. I must say I was a bit shocked at first, and relieved by the "Terrible thing to do to a flower." But I like being startled like that. bambs
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (18 of 36), Read 43 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 10:24 AM Instead of 'silly' I think I would use the word 'precious' to describe the tulip thing -- although as I said, that opening bit was my favorite part of the book, there were points where I did experience a definite concussive sensation as if I were being struck up along side the head by the author while she yelled in my ear, "Ya get it?" Sort of like Margaret Atwood in a playful moment, if such can be imagined. And, Sara, I guess I'm not paying close enough attention. I didn't see these events as occurring in a 'virtual reality' in the sense of an immersive sensory experience. All I understood it to be was a text-based interchange, very much as we're doing here on CR, via e-mail, perhaps on line chat, etc. As such, and just looking at my own screens, all of those forms of communication carry with them clues as to the identity and nature of the experience, and such clues are intrinsic to the experience. In my mind, the omission of these clues, amid Winterson's striving to create a sense of 'on line immediacy' resulted in more confusion than clarity. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to understand your own reading material." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (19 of 36), Read 46 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 11:56 AM Sara, you say: Is it possible to sweep oneself off one's feet and then be heartbroken? Steve, is that what you mean? That's exactly what I'm wondering. After all, she does say toward the beginning, "I am the story." Somewhat of a masturbatory exercise. One additional comment on this aspect of the work, and then I'll leave it alone. Again regarding "NEW DOCUMENT" by way of example, I considered the possibility that as Ali writes this story about an encounter in Paris, the other "woman" breaks in occasionally, and they have a little dialogue. A kind of participatory story. But when you look closely, this really is not the way it's working. Same with "spitalfields," too. By the way, Dick, the inclusion of the online accoutrements that you suggest would have clarified all this to no end. One of the many little things that I did like: There is cyberspace and then there is "meatspace." Therein lies the rub. I have difficulty determining when we're in cyberspace and when we're in meatspace, if we ever are. Giving Winterson the benefit of the doubt, this confusion may have been exactly what she planned for me. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (20 of 36), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 01:05 PM Sara, I didn't (don't) mean to "take the wind right out of its sails." Even if I had intended it, it would have been a futile gesture. PB is up and going. The principal part of PB is the relationship of the two women, pursued and pursuer, acting out the trust/distrust part of yielding up one's self to another. Winterson has distilled this to its essence, and essence comes in small bottles. The other parts of the book are like the facets of a perfume bottle - designed to make the contents seem more glamorous than they would if simply put in a plain glass vial. I admire both the reduction of the relationship to an essence and the cut of the bottle. pres, rushing to a root canal.
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (21 of 36), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 02:28 PM Pres - I like that description, of the essence and the bottle, I think that explains a lot of it for me. And maybe that's why I like the "story" parts better than the connections, I like the essence over the container. I think the beginning tulip part was the best of the book for me(though I'm not quite done) not so much for the obvious "sex stuff" but because I found myself curious about what was going to happen as the charade continued. How long would she be able to keep up this disguise? Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (22 of 36), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 03:20 PM I'm no horticulturist, but that musta been one helluva tough tulip. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (23 of 36), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 03:42 PM I suspect that is part of what Theresa was referring to when she said that she thought the tulip thing was a bit too silly to work, Dick. The author is enamored of the image though. She comes back to it in "strange:" Why did I begin as I did, with Ali and the tulip? I wanted to make a slot in time. To use time fully I use it vertically. One life is not enough. I use the past as a stalking horse to come nearer to my quarry. My quarry is you and I, caught in time, running as fast as we can. Been trying to wrap my mind around that one for some time now. And then in "QUIT" we get the sequel to the tulip episode. In part: Ali's story is not well documented, and the uses found by the ladies of Holland for this amorous flower have been kept a close secret. Which to my way of thinking does not redound to the great credit of Dutch manhood. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (24 of 36), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 06:06 PM I blame it on the Dutch beer. 3 bottles of Grolsch, and you're telling Jennifer Aniston to get her own ride home. Candidly, though, I think Georgia O'Keefe did the flower thing better. And I've not made much more than hundred pages of progress in Orlando, a pace due to various non-critical but time-consuming personal and professional crises. But, even with that introductory dose, I've decided that Winterson has a ways to go to catch up with Woolf as a writer (stop the presses, of course). So, when we gonna talk Winterson aphorisms, which seems to be her chosen mode of expression? To get in practice you may want to scan through this site, chock full of pithy (o.k., not so pithy) mental sound bites. Amazing to me how much like Winterson Nietszche sometimes sounds and vice-versa: http://infonectar.com/aphorisms.html And here's an interesting quote from an essay on Winterson's earlier work that seems to me to be smack on for the novel under discussion: ""There are story-worlds, and there are novel-worlds, and there are also worlds still to be imagined, waiting at the edge of all those stories that are spare enough and swift enough to leave the details of the world-making to us", writes Michael Wood...in his discussions of Jeanette Winterson. He is talking about her enthusiasm for aphorism, "that mode which always means more than it says and always hints at absent narratives." Absent narratives are certainly something which abound in Winterson." Copyright, Nicola Lumsden, 2000; complete text at: http://www.orangeminds.com/palemovie/literary/storytelling.html That same essay quotes an earlier work of Winterson (The Passion) on the telling of stories: ? "I'm telling you stories. Trust me,..." Isn't that virtually exact line in the present book as well? And if this all seems a little fragmented, well, I'll tie it up eventually. Trust me. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to explain your own aphorisms." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (25 of 36), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 09:48 PM From Dick's note: I didn't see these events as occurring in a 'virtual reality' in the sense of an immersive sensory experience. Okay, I assumed that since Ali seemed so broken up over this failed relationship with the married woman, that there would have to have been some kind of "immersion." Other than e-mail, which I know is now a highly touted 'dating' tool, but how can you have all that longing and passion in a story if the lovers never really stand next to each other? I guess that's my argument, too, against Steve's idea that this might all be onanistic. AND on aphorism: "that mode which always means more than it says and always hints at absent narratives." Absent narratives are certainly something which abound in Winterson." Very nice point -- and it fits with Winterson's "covers" of literary classics, too. Is she making it easy on herself, or just reducing the sauce, as Pres suggests? Sara
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (26 of 36), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 10:46 PM Georgia O'Keefe denied that she ever intended those things that we all see in her flowers. We're going to talk about Winterson's aphorisms right now, Dick. It is the most striking thing about the style of this book in my opinion and the most entertaining, sometimes in ways that I am sure Winterson did not intend. She takes big risks in this way, and big risks translate into big successes or big flops. There is no in between. Let me start with one I liked: There is no love that does not pierce the hands and feet. Neat allusion to Christ. Also, no one who has dealt with an adolescent child can deny the truth of it. Obviously, Winterson liked it, too. She repeats it a half dozen times. A somewhat opaque one--I say "somewhat" because I feel like I understand it even though I don't: Love's lengthways splits the heart in two--the heart where you are, the heart where you want to be. Shaky: There is no penance that can calm love and no regret that can make it bitter. This does not comport with my experience, but I'm not going to argue about it. On the other hand. . .: Death can change the body but not the heart. This is simply and blatantly not true. This sounds to me like one of those beautiful lies that one might tell another with the hope of getting laid. I have a couple of favorite paragraphs from this book, but they are not in the nature of aphorisms. Later on those. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (27 of 36), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2002 11:03 PM I have the teeniest, tiniest, sneaking suspicion, however, that Winterson's aphorisms, at least half the time, are clever but don't really mean much of anything. For example, "In the end one loves one's desire and not what is desired. Well, actually, I guess that one does mean something, whether I agree or not. Of course, Nietzsche said it and not Winterson, but my guess would be that it didn't jump out at anyone as an obvious distinction in authorship. How about these: "The more you let yourself go, the less others let you go." "Beyond time, beyond death, love is. Time and death cannot wear it away." "Mere human love does not satisfy us, though we settle for it." "Even the most courageous among us only rarely has the courage for that which he really knows." Winterson? Nietzsche? Haggart? Tune in tomorrow for the amazing answers.... Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to play 'Pick the Aphorism'." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (28 of 36), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Theresa Simpson theresa.a.simpson@gte.net Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 01:27 AM Maybe Winterson is quite aware that most aphorisms, including her own, don't really mean anything when dissected? She likes to play around with words, and with her readers. An aphorism, by definition, "delimits" something - an idea, generally. The word is related to horizon. I don't think she's much in favor of boundaries. As for the tulip prosthesis. Flowers are traditionally a metaphor for the feminine - either romantic/sentimental (a la bouquets); or sexual (a la O'Keefe). Maybe Winterson is subverting the dominant metaphor? Theresa Ars longa; vita brevis
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (29 of 36), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 06:57 AM Dick already posted the one I liked - Beyond time How about - I am a map that you redraw. She brought up maps earlier - the stories are maps. Maps of journeys that have been made and might have been made. A Marco Polo route through territory real or imagined. After I finished, I had the sense that I didn't know who was saying what. It was just an anybody saying these things. When it was Ali or the other woman I could never distinguish. Also her thing about love, she (Ali, Winterson?) seems to believe that love is the most elusive of emotions, that we think we know it but we really don't. We delude ourselves in thinking we understand it. That it is something much deeper, much more all encompassing than we think. -Nothing could be more familiar than love. Nothing else eludes us so completely. I'm not sure if I liked this book or not. At the moment I don't have a sense of the story. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (30 of 36), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 08:52 AM I thought that the section using the map metaphor was pretty good. I need to go back and read that again though. In the meantime, Sherri, I suspect that Pres's remarks above are the key to accepting and enjoying this book for what it is. If that is in fact the traditional symbolism of tulips, Theresa, then clearly she is subverting the dominant metaphor. Good point. I have my answer sheet marked, Dick, and waiting to see whether I'm a winner. A little good-natured fun with her style is clearly in order. She does also produce some rather striking passages though. For example, there is a paragraph in "SEARCH" that begins, "Your marrow is in my bones." Very cool passage. I would post it in its entirety, but in it she makes use of the two antipodal "c" words. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (31 of 36), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 10:22 AM Those would be, of course, "cranium" and "coccyx"? And, the answers to the literary puzzler, in order of the quotes, are: Winterson, Nietzsche, Nietzsche, Winterson. I think. Maybe I should have taken notes. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to grade your own exams." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (32 of 36), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 10:26 AM Whoops. Had that backwards. Winterson's are the two in the middle, Nietzsche provides the bookends. Damn, I hate when I outsmart myself. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (33 of 36), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 10:38 AM Damn! I had one of the Nietzsche's as a Haggart. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (34 of 36), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 11:01 AM Don't feel bad. A lot of people have made that mistake. Who was it who was waxing ecstatic about Nietzsche around here recently (or at least within the last year)? Felix or maybe Dale? Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (35 of 36), Read 13 times Conf: Reading List From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 10:39 PM How are you boys doing with Orlando? How does Woolf handle the time/space continuum in that one? And does she put you clearly in the mind/body of a male or female, or is there gender confusion for the reader, as I would say there is with Winterson? I do plan on picking it up myself, I just haven't yet. Sara
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (36 of 36), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, January 17, 2002 10:46 PM It's been so long since I read Orlando I can't add much comment there, except the memory that it did cruise thru time, and wasn't there a lot about skating on ice? I'm enjoying the discussion here. In fact, quite a bit more than I enjoyed either Orlando or The Powerbook. Carry on. Ruth Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup. Anon.
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (37 of 38), Read 10 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, January 18, 2002 11:50 AM I rolled right into Orlando and have been interrupted, but only temporarily. Definitely going to finish it over the course of this discussion. Orlando simply lives on. Woolf on time: But Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timpepiece of the mind by one second. Then all of the sudden one morning Orlando was nude and checking himself out in the mirror, as we all are wont to do now and again truth be told, and lo and behold, he had slid over the line and was a she. Gender is a continuum. While Dick and I are getting in touch with our feminine sides here, I am sure that neither of us would handle such a loss with nearly the equanimity that Orlando displays. Now some may argue that this is not a loss but a gain. Maybe, but I can't view it that way. This would definitely ruin my day. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (38 of 38), Read 2 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, January 18, 2002 12:15 PM Oh, yes, and I had to chuckle. Woolf reproduces a portion of a ledger itemizing the sumptuous furnishings Orlando has acquired for his digs when he was still he. The list is truncated, and there follows this comment: Already--it is an effect lists have upon us--we are beginning to yawn. But if we stop, it is only because the catalogue is tedious, not that it is finished. I was reminded immediately of the perennial "Last Five Books I Bought" topic here. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (39 of 41), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Friday, January 18, 2002 04:42 PM Yes, Orlando simply awakes one day to find that his original GI-issue conjugating apparatus has been mysterious replaced with the other kind of conjugating apparatus. That he (now she) does not, as Steve says, notice this until examining him/herself naked in a mirror (mirror alert here; always a Woolf and, hence Winterson, favorite) tells us perhaps more than we want to know about Woolf's sexuality or lack thereof. It seems to me that a basic rule of Darwinian selection would, or at least ought to be: Those who cannot tell if their genitals and secondary sexual characteristics are still attached without looking in a mirror, should not procreate, even in the unlikely event that they are capable of doing so." Such a rule is quite contrary, of course, to what Woolf seems to be telling us in Orlando, namely that who we are is fundamentally unrelated and independent of, not only our gender (if not our sexuality, but I'm not sure Virginia was prepared to go there) but of time itself. While Winterson was not writing the same story as Woolf, by any means, there are some common elements, most visibly the genderial shape-shifting. And, while it seems clear to me that for some purposes and at some levels Winterson is riffing on Woolf's Orlando, she is doing so in the guise of strongly sexual (as in doing lots of screwing) characters -- something that I did not see in Orlando -- and that sex-qua-sex (distinct from gender) is important to her and her story in ways it does not seem to be for Woolf. But, both books seem to tell us that we exist in dimensions and ways not defined by the common world of everyday -- but instead we have, if we choose to experience them, delimited existences, to borrow Theresa's word from a number of posts ago (I've been think about that word ever since you used it, T, and I finally figured out at least part of what you may have been getting at). So, that's what I'm thinking during lunch hour on Friday. It may well be different by beer-thirty. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to discover your own sex change in a mirror." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (40 of 41), Read 15 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Friday, January 18, 2002 07:17 PM A very nice post, Dick. As you so percipiently say: "Those who cannot tell if their genitals and secondary sexual characteristics are still attached without looking in a mirror, should not procreate, even in the unlikely event that they are capable of doing so." You should also perhaps comment on the use of appropriate gender substitutes, if any. Surely the utilization of tulips bespeaks a "delimited existence"? You say: "But, both books seem to tell us that we exist in dimensions and ways not defined by the common world of everyday -- but instead we have, if we choose to experience them, delimited existences, to borrow Theresa's word from a number of posts ago . ." It seems to me that both books are wish/dreams of the authors - they would choose to live in such worlds, reflecting their natures, if they could. Though it is nearly half a century since I read ORLANDO for the frisson that it had at that time and my age, I still have a sharp sense of the book. The mirror in that book is for Victoria Sackville-West and if a mirror can be besotted, it is. Here's looking at you through the vermouth washed gin. pres
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (41 of 41), Read 14 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Friday, January 18, 2002 08:45 PM Ah, gin. You catch me at an awkward moment, as I am on an alcohol holiday in an attempt to shed a few unsightly pounds that stubbornly refuse to give up to the stern discipline of the gymnasium. Sort of my 'Al Quaeda' poundage: terrorist fat cells, that stubbornly hold out in the mountains of my midriff. As for gender substitutes, I don't know. Personally, I'd go for something sturdier than a tulip, but the nearly magical-surrealist aspect of Winterson's opening chapter clearly seems to work. I agree with you that Woolf and Winterson's works are both dreams of imagined possibility, although I think Woolf's evidences her protean intelligence more clearly than Winterson's (even assuming her intelligence is on the same level as Woolf's, which I do not not). For example, Woolf's musings on time and its relation (or lack of relation) to consciousness are almost eerily modern. Surely at the time she wrote, only a couple of decades after the General Theory became more or less widely known, it must have been very heady stuff. Winterson, on the other hand, also plays with expanded or delimited notions of consciousness, but I think the playing field of cyberspace is a much less challenging arena than that of time itself. Winterson's book has turned out be more interesting to me than I thought it was the first time through, and one of the reasons is: reading and thinking about Orlando in relation to it. As usual, triangulation works best for me. And while I don't really 'like' Winterson's book, thought-provoking and interesting are not bad second-place finishes. Nor, do I think she's the creative force that Virginia Woolf was -- but hell, that's no criticism at all. Damn, a scotch would taste good now. But, soon I will be thinner, and on that day, the scotch will be even older. So everything in its time. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to delimit your own consciousness without benefit of scotch whiskey." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (42 of 87), Read 60 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:13 PM Well, now! A veritable feast here in these last three, Dick and pres. (A fitting metaphor as you will soon see.) pres, I have turned back again and again to your No. 5 above. It was a perceptive review of this book, brief and to the point. Upon reflection, you are clearly right. The cyber presentation was beside the point. You were correct also in assessing what is enjoyable about the book (or at least interesting, Dick), but yes, it is weak on the characterizations. One of the major differences between this one and Orlando is that in the latter there is the very separate voice of the omniscient narrator commenting on the action, many times with an ironical tone. Winterson's book is in the first person in spades, and a very self-obsessed first person, I think it's fair to say. On a slightly different subject, I myself am not food-obsessed, but food-obsessed people interest me. A socially acceptable addiction, and in many cases it seems so to me because the fundamental urges for food and for sex have somehow gotten all mixed up. The narrator is one of these, and she glories in it--tells us right up front. For example: She and I had walked without speaking, back over the Pont Neuf, to a little triangle of grass and birch trees set on all sides with small restaurants. I like to eat here. Someone once called it "the sex of Paris." and The artichoke arrived and I began to peel it away, fold by fold, layer by layer, dipping it. There is no secret about eating artichoke, or what the act resembles. Nothing else gives itself up so satisfyingly towards its center. Nothing else promises and rewards. The tiny hairs are part of the pleasure. and The waitress cleared the plates and brought us some brown and yellow banded ice cream, the same color as the ceilings and walls. It even had the varnishy look of the 1930s. The cherries round the edges were like Garbo kisses. You speared one and fed it to me. and then we have a full-blown recipe for salsa di pomodori, and I'll be damned if this recipe does not evolve into a metaphor for these women's sexual affair. This is all just fine with me, but what I don't care for is food name-dropping. I happen to know what haricots verts are, and I must say that "green beans" would have done as well. Plebeian that I am, however, I am not familiar with torta Caprese or bresaola with rocket nor do I know what is distinctive about buffalo mozzarella. A little insight on these things would have been nice, and without it one is left with the feeling that the author (or the narrator if you prefer) is a little too proud of her culinary sophistication. It's off-putting to me. Steve A hot dog at the ballpark is better than a steak at the Ritz. --Bogart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (43 of 87), Read 62 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:47 PM Steve: She wasn't writing for Cedar Rapids. Or Anchorage, now that I think about it. And, not knowing anything about buffalo mozzarella myself, I looked it up. Son of a gun, if it really isn't buffalo mozzarella, as in that big critter with the horns that Indians shoot with arrows? How seldom are things what they first appear. http://www.gustolatte.com/eng/index.htm Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to buffalo your own mozzarella." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (44 of 87), Read 59 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:49 PM Okay, okay. Good point, Dick. Praise the internet! A torta Caprese is what we here in Cedar Rapids call a goddamned chocolate cake with walnut chunks in it. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (45 of 87), Read 60 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:50 PM Think our posts kinda got flip-flopped there, what with the editing and all, but we're getting the word out. Would it be fair to call this one a 'chick book', what with the recipes and the vagino-form Parisian islands? I may be jumping to conclusions, but I'm just not getting a 'Pappy' feel out of this. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (46 of 87), Read 56 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:58 PM I don't think so. . .well, obviously not. Not very many chicks here discussing it. I think it partakes more of that handy phrase we coined not too long ago around here, a "dick book." I could have used a bit more detail in certain respects though. You know, it occurs to me that this book bears less resemblance to Orlando than it does to Graham Greene's End of the Affair. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (47 of 87), Read 59 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:50 PM I sort of feel bad for the guy who has to milk the buffalo. Tricky job, I bet. Beej
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (48 of 87), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:52 PM Now the posts are unflip-flopped. How does he do that? Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (49 of 87), Read 57 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 04:58 PM Come to find out, milking Bubalus bubalis is a big thing internationally. Only natural that I was among the last to know. http://www.cgiar.org/ilri/dbtw-wpd/fulldocs/smhdairy/06mud.htm And a picture, even: I love mozzarella, incidentally. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (50 of 87), Read 54 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 05:03 PM Although the more I look at that picture, the more I'm thinking, Bufalus bufalis is not the same critter as Bison bison. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (51 of 87), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 05:07 PM Yep. Looks like one of those Asian models to me as opposed to a Ted Turner model. I have to admit that I have a soft spot for mozzarella, too. In fact I started to compose a little encomium to mozzarella to post here. . .you know, the warmth of it, the creamy smooth whiteness of it. . .but I got so turned on that I had to abandon the effort. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (52 of 87), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 05:09 PM Is a bison as big as a buffalo? The woman and the whateveritis, look to be about the same size. (I thought a bison and a buffalo were the same thing.) Beej
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (53 of 87), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 05:17 PM It's just a very, very large woman. If they would have parked a Volkswagen Beetle next to the woman milking the buffalo for the purpose of giving us a better idea of scale, it would have been helpful in that regard. And just to flesh this all out completely, bresaola is a cold cut, beef rubbed with spices and air-cured in the Valtellina, a long Alpine valley in Lombardy. Now all I have to figure out is rocket leaf. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (54 of 87), Read 53 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 05:26 PM Of course, you'd want a very, very large woman when milking a buffalo. Imagine, for example, gail singer, trying to milk a buffalo? I don't think it would be a pretty picture. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to milk your own buffalo." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (55 of 87), Read 55 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 05:35 PM Or me! I used to milk Jersey cattle in my youth, a breed considerably smaller than Holsteins and veritable lap dogs compared to buffaloes. Those gals took advantage of me physically. They are very beautiful creatures though. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (56 of 87), Read 44 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 06:09 PM What a terrible story, Steve. And I was feeling sorry for those kids who were molested by the de-frocked priest -- who knew we had a man right among us, who, as a lad, was victimized by herds of Jersey cows with swollen mammaries? It is amazing to me just how many, many doors a book can open for you. I will always remember reading Winterson for that reason alone. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to [shudder] milk your own cows." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (57 of 87), Read 48 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 05:47 PM I think Winterson succeeded in getting the feel of the Internet and I actually think I prefer that to something that would try to bring in the specific details (email addresses, etc.). I felt like I could have been on-line in the middle of successive nights, the unreality of it. I have to admit that some of my favorite parts of this were the descriptions of places in Europe. We were in Paris and Capri this past summer and she took me back there totally. Again, she had the sense of it nailed particularly Anacapri. When we read The Passion (last year?), I felt that I wasn't reading something that connected with me at a gut level (Munro would be an example of that feeling) but something that made me stretch and that stayed with me. The Powerbook has many moments like that, but doesn't sustain it throughout. At times, she's just a bit too glib. I thought that the reference to "the sex" of Paris and the hairs on the artichoke were a few of those moments. My brother has been recommending Sexing the Cherry, an early Winterson, for years. I am going to nominate it for next year's reading list since we've now read two of her latest. Barb
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (58 of 87), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 07:13 PM Rocket is arugula, Steve. And in case arugula hasn't penetrated to deepest Iowa -- its a salad green. Slightly bitter whang to it. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (59 of 87), Read 40 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 07:43 PM We may be country boys, Ruth, but we read The New Yorker, so we know people have been giggling about arugula for dog years. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (60 of 87), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 07:55 PM Well Steve was asking, Dick, Steve was asking. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (61 of 87), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 08:06 PM And, I also wanted to say how greatful I was for Steve prompting me to look up 'buffalo mozzarella'. I naturally (or at least naturally for me) assumed that 'buffalo' was probably some Italian word and that I would ultimately find some exotic Italian variety of cheese, pronounced of course, BOO-FAL´-LOW. You can imagine how much embarrassment I've been saved. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (62 of 87), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, January 19, 2002 08:26 PM My experience in reading Powerbook was the same as BARB's in so far as the places referred to were concerned. Even the train station scenes, and I feel that Hell must have a lot of train stations. I thought the food references were meant to be both sexy and "smart" - right off the menus of those BE SEEN HERE restaurants that sprout every day. For the purpose of the feel of the affair, Just right. And writing about BSH restaurants, I remember being in NY in 1942 and having an army buddy take me to a veddy sophisticated bar with veddy sophisticated piano music - owned by Cole Porter. * *Have scanned a fair amount of Porter biographical material but have found no reference to it. pres
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (63 of 87), Read 55 times Conf: Reading List From: Theresa Simpson theresa.a.simpson@gte.net Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 01:08 AM Steve and Dick managed to crack me up. I'd like to see anyone try to milk a bison, which is a very, very different beast than a buffalo (it was a misappellation which led to calling bison "buffalo" - much like calling NAs "Indians.") How about a nice plate of some sliced buffalo mozzarella and perfectly ripe tomatoes, lots of chopped fresh basil, some black pepper, and a little bit of olive oil drizzled over all, eaten on a sunny patio with a glass of red wine and some chewy bread? And a bowl of good olives on the side. Yum! No wonder Winterson confuses food and sex (if she does, which I doubt, there being of course a difference between confusion and intentional metaphor.) Theresa
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (64 of 87), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 11:35 AM pres, you sure that your pal didn't just take you to the main bar in the Waldorf? Cole Porter was a regular there, and the last time I checked in--some time ago--his grand piano with round water stains from his martini glass was still there. And pres, Winterson did do a very good job with her descriptions of place. Thanks, Ruthie. Rocket and arugula had passed me by. Sara knew what it was, too. I suppose I should pay more attention. When the waiter rolls into that long, elaborate litany describing the makings in the specials, I always space off. "Hi. My name is Biff, and I will be your server this evening." "Great news, Biff! My name is Steve, and I will be your customer this evening. Another Beefeater martini up with olives for me, please. Tell the rest of these folks about all the stuff in the specials." Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (65 of 87), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 11:49 AM After the neat little lecture on bacteria, evolution, DNA, and the juxtaposition of sex and death, we get this: She looked at me like I'm crazy. Most of my lovers do, and that's partly why they love me, and partly why they leave. I'm not being completely honest here because I do the leaving myself sometimes. Perhaps those lovers sensed something obsessive in the narrator's personality. Sometimes people look at other people like they're crazy because they are crazy. Ali seems to me one of those folks who cannot accept a little toss in the hay for what it is. Sex must be done in the context of a "great and ruinous" love or it ain't sex. Delusions follow. All I'm saying is that there is a very troubling aspect of the narrator's personality. This has everything to do with the title of the book, too, by the way. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (66 of 87), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 12:02 PM Excellent point about the title. And I agree that the real, as opposed to superficial, similarities between Orlando and The Powerbook are minimal. Interesting that the critics keep bringing up Orlando as a point of comparison, indicating perhaps that they don't really know what else to say. Woolf brings two things to the party that are largely missing form Winterson: a relatively full and interesting characterization of the protagonist, and a sense of humor. Her description of the legal process by which Orlando's inheritance (as a woman) was finally confirmed by Lord Palmerston had me in stitches. But I thought the OJ trial was pretty funny too, so maybe it's a lawyer thing. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (67 of 87), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 12:13 PM There is humor in Winterson. It is found in the dialogue. "When should we meet?" "How about the Middle Ages?" It is the humor of glib repartée. My taste in humor coincides more with yours, Dick. The whole plot here reminded my of my pal, Rande. Some time ago Rande was drowning his sorrows after the end of an affair. After babbling the usual for awhile, he turned his sodden face to me and said, "The bitch left me before I was ready to leave her!" Serious he was. Therein lay the tale of a broken heart. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (68 of 87), Read 40 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 12:13 PM I think Winterson is most successful when she writes in a fable sort of form. That was very much the feeling I had in The Passion which I think I liked better than this one. And, it's the form she takes in my favorite parts of this book, those that don't directly deal with her own love affair. Is the part at the end about searching through the rooms of the house based on something in Orlando? I liked that very much. Barb
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (69 of 87), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 01:27 PM The fably stuff is exactly what puts me off, Barb. But then that may be my particular aversion to fable (which I find distancing) rather than Winterson's writing. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (70 of 87), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 02:36 PM Usually, I would be right in your camp on this fable stuff, Ruthie, but that is because I have little patience with talking animals. In fact talking goddamned animals drive me nuts. Talking goddamned animals always try to foist the most inane stuff on us. Winterson doesn't partake of that. Which brings me to the question of whether we are using the right word when we use the word "fable" when discussing this book. The story of the red fox and the tulip tale, I suppose, are fables, what with the magical aspect. However, the rest of these are based on legendary love stories. Would "legend" be a better word when referring to those? Whatever, I actually did very much enjoy her rendition of the Lancelot and Guinevere story with Paolo and Francesca a close second. And they were all mercifully short. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (71 of 87), Read 45 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 02:43 PM I'll be the first to admit that I found this book really confusing. Sometimes when a book confuses me, I'll sit back and wonder whether that was the author's intent. Maybe, this is one of those times. Perhaps the reason Winterson didn't include all those cyber headings (e-mail...doc.--etc.) is because the worlds of reality and fantasy were supposed to meld. I think it's what made the book so ethereal. Weren't these characters told that the price of entering these fantasies was that they would leave as different people than they were before entering? I played with the thought that they, ever after, became in reality the person they were in the fantasy. In essence, they were eternally 'damned' to the fantasy. Maybe? Beej
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (72 of 87), Read 45 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 02:54 PM Without writing it out, I think there could be a real play on the word 'Tulips' too, that would point directly to a blurring of the genders. But maybe (maybe not) that would be stretching it a bit..(I'm trying hard to keep an open mind here, is all.) Beej
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (73 of 87), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 04:06 PM Good points, Steve, she definitely is mixing the two here. I liked the two short legends you mentioned too. Beej, you've got a really interesting idea. The narrator certainly puts a lot of emphasis on this notion that you will be forever changed after this experience. Actually, as I went back to reread those first few pages, I am struck again by these words: Undress. Take off your clothes. Take off your body. Hang them up behind the door. Tonight we can go deeper than disguise. That is the potential of this faceless Internet. It doesn't mean "undress" in a sexual context necessarily. You can actually take off your self, become someone else. But, when you try to go back to it, are you somehow permanently altered? I also realized on reread that the narrator gets the email that says Freedom, just for one night. I thought that she was the language costumier, not someone else. Barb
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (74 of 87), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 09:30 PM There were times when I felt that Winterson was recording her dreams rather than creating email stories. It seemed as though she woke up and recorded her dreams on her laptop in journal form. In fact, the whole thing seemed quite dreamlike to me. Which reminds me, Steve and Dick. In Orlando, the sex change is noticed in the mirror, but it seems to have occurred during a long, heavy sleep. No one has mentioned the Muck family story. Was that supposed to be Winterson's own family? Lots of Wilderness and poisoned potions, and no love for the written word. I agree, Barb, that this is not going to stay with me the way The Passion did. MAP
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (75 of 87), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002 10:31 PM Yeah, MAP, I think Orlando slept for like an ethereal week or something while his old parts atrophied and his new ones grew. Kind of a caterpillar into a butterfly thing is how I saw it. Or perhaps like Venus being coughed up out of one of those giant seashells in an 18th century painting. But tasteful. Anyway, trust me on this: one of the very first things most men would notice first thing in the morning, before they even thought about rolling out of bed, would be a sex-change operation. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (76 of 87), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: Theresa Simpson theresa.a.simpson@gte.net Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 01:26 AM You guys. You know about virtual realities, and MUDs, right? Participants adopt/create personas in fantasy worlds/stories online, the personas grow personalities which then behave and react according to type? All the thing in the early net? I do believe that's what is going on in Powerbook - not a discussion, as here, or email correspondence. Put this book in the context of a MUD, and what we know about how MUDs operate, and it all makes sense. Now there are avatars, too - moving beyond text. Theresa
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (77 of 87), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 10:17 AM I never heard of them being referred to as MUDS, Theresa, or being organized into a specific fantasy. I definitely missed that. But, I have known lots of people who adopt a whole different personality, age, even gender, when they are on-line and that's what this reminded me of. That's why I liked that section that I quoted about taking off your body. Mary Anne, I'm delighted to see you posting on this. Did you nominate it? I was interested in your reaction to it. I wondered about the Muck family too and kept thinking that there was more symbolism there and tie-in to the story than I was getting. I read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which is her semiautobiography, a long time ago. I don't remember her parents' profession, but I do remember that they were fundamentalist Christians, Pentacostals, I think. And, I seem to remember that they were very opposed to any bookreading apart from the Bible. Barb
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (78 of 87), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 12:05 PM This totally went by me, too. What does MUD actually stand for? Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (79 of 87), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 12:30 PM I don't know what a MUD is either, but I take it that this is an acronym for one of those roll playing games. Right now Beej has me too busy playing anagrams with the letters of the word "tulips" to worry about it. But I think maybe she is suggesting that it is a pun on "two lips." Maybe. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (80 of 87), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 12:43 PM Yes, Barb, I did nominate this book. I admit to a shameless attempt at getting votes, as we were all still awash in the glow of the discussion of The Passion at the time. Like you, I am somewhat disappointed, but I'm willing to read other Winterson works. MAP
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (81 of 87), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 01:47 PM MUD is the acronym for 'multi-user domain', that originated in on-line, text based fantasy/adventure game environments. Here is an essay that discusses some of the psychological aspects of going on line to pose as a cross-dressing elf or genderially altered orc: http://www.netaxs.com/~jamesiii/mud.htm As you can see, many of the concepts are common with Winterson's novel. Being somewhat familiar with MUD's, however, her presentation of the experience does not in my opinion, portray a MUD experience. It is, at most, analogous. Perhaps I'm being too much of a techie here, but I find all the identifying paraphenalia of the internet (url's, command line interface symbols, etc.) to be rather like street signs: they tell me where I am. It's interesting that some readers find Winterson's descriptive vignettes (which taken individually are almost all very well done and interesting) as being suggestive of computer experience. To me they are not, for the reasons stated. And, it seems unlikely to me that if Winterson had not been explicit about the story unfolding in some sort of cyberspace context that many readers would have figured that out. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to make your own MUD." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (82 of 87), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 02:22 PM I have to agree, Dick. From MUDs to Muck Midden, the portion of the book that I liked the least. It was my father. He put his face close to mine, and I could smell the sulphur on him. "Never touch that jar. Never. If that ever gets loose we're finished. "What is it?" "Love," said my father, "There's love in that jar." And so I discovered that love is a hazardous liquid. Shades of Pandora's box, but gosh, this is weak. And as if this weren't enough, then we're off to look for buried treasure. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (83 of 87), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 02:50 PM Right on the nose, Dick. And you, too, Steve. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (84 of 87), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 04:54 PM I had read Oranges a long time ago, and liked it, which was why I tried this one. But this was a little disappointing. Even after all this discussion, I still don't have the feeling of cyberspace. The gender stuff never bothered me, but I never quite felt there was really 2 people, it felt more like stories one person was telling, and trying to connect together into something. I like the idea Winterson was trying, but it didn't seem to work for me. I've never read Orlando, but I have read other Woolf books, and on principle would say Orlando is the much better book. Sherri Not all who wander are lost - Tolkien
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (85 of 87), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 05:25 PM Given her somewhat straightened circumstances in childhood (as referenced in the opening post), I was wondering if the Muck Midden piece wasn't a bit of an autobiographical swipe at her own (possibly) despised antecedents. Unlike the rest of the book, that section seemed almost personal. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to shovel your own snow." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (86 of 87), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, January 21, 2002 05:30 PM I liked Oranges, too, Sherri. But, unlike a lot of people here, I disliked The Passion with a Passion. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (87 of 87), Read 16 times Conf: Reading List From: Theresa Simpson theresa.a.simpson@gte.net Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2002 03:26 AM A funny story about MUDs. Way back when, a male acquaintance mentioned the Lambda MUD to me. I had not heard of this MUD at the time, but had heard of a gay rights group called Lambda. Remember, I was living in the Bay Area at the time, and I thought this was a round-about way of his coming out of the closet to me. For at least six months thereafter, I had this (straight) guy fixed in my mind as gay. I interacted with him as if he were a gay man - I can't say specifically what the difference was, but it was definitely there. Only to find out, LambdaMUD is an extremely popular complex role-playing MUD with nothing to do with gay rights. I believe it is still going strong, but has a long, long waiting list to "get in." Theresa
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (88 of 91), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2002 11:06 AM Makes sense, Teresa. There certainly is some role playing going on in this book. Dick, I suspect that you're quite right that there is probably an autobiographical angle to the Muck Midden section. Part of my reaction to it arises out of my dislike of one of life's general rules, which is. . . . . .anything the kid does right redounds to the kid's own credit, but any problems the kid encounters are the parents' fault. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (89 of 91), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2002 12:41 PM I think Winterson's (or the narrator's) unconcealed disdain for Muck Midden is of a piece with her name-dropping embrace of French food. It is not a terribly attractive picture, and one hopes for the sake of her parents it is an artistic construct and not a reflection of an inner reality. Dick "you have to sing your own song in the end." -- John Updike "which is fine, so long as you don't have to spend much time around your own children." -- Dick Haggart
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (90 of 91), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2002 01:09 PM This illustrates another thing that I find interesting about this book. Usually, I have no problem keeping the author and the narrator separate in my mind. Not here. I continually assume that this is Winterson speaking rather than some narrator she has invented. I notice that Barb has done this, too. Not quite sure why that is. Maybe I learned too much about Winterson studying her beautifully done official web site. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (91 of 91), Read 19 times Conf: Reading List From: Theresa Simpson theresa.a.simpson@gte.net Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 01:09 AM Very funny. Original, too! Theresa
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (92 of 92), Read 5 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 10:03 AM I took a little time to browse the archived discussion of The Passion, a Winterson book that several people have mentioned in this topic, usually in a detrimental comparison to The Powerbook. What a bunch of raves by the Constant Readers about that one! I will have to take a look. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (93 of 97), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 01:58 PM I am convinced that Winterson read Sex and the Origins of Death by William R. Clark and was quite taken with it. Again back to this section: In the strange dark history of our evolution, there was a drift, inevitably, away from self-reproducing organisms--like bacteria--towards organisms which must fuse with one another to survive. You see, bacteria know the secret of eternal life. They do not die unless something kills them. They don't change, they don't age, all they do is multiply. . . . So those morbid medievals and those burning Romantic poets weren't wrong. Sex and death belong together, joined in our imaginations as they are in our DNA. That's the whole subject of Clark's book, isn't it? But bacteria do change, and very rapidly, don't they? Perhaps she intended to say that an individual bacterium does not change. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (94 of 97), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 02:00 PM Yep, that's my understanding. They change to save their asses. Which is more than humans do. Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (95 of 97), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 02:11 PM The subject of that book fascinated me, too, as described by Bo over in the "Favorite Science Books" topic. I was considering reading it. Then I read Earl Dennis's extended review of it on amazon.com wherein he states as follows: There are probably about a dozen absolutely astounding facts in the anals of science and physics that bring perspective to the wacky world of reality. Now I'm not so sure I want to go there. Steve
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (96 of 97), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 02:55 PM Not up to a little proctological perspective, huh? Ruth "Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, then you do it for money." Moliere
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (97 of 97), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 09:59 PM Steve, I'm sure there is a bit of autobiographical stuff woven into the Muck family account and I agree that it is one of the weakest parts of the book. That "love" passage is a great example. Oranges gave me the sense that she had good reason for bitterness but that certainly didn't motivate her toward great writing here. Barb
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (98 of 101), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: S.F. Strahan Date: Monday, February 04, 2002 01:20 PM I finally got around to reading this small, slight book yesterday. I didn't like the way the book was padded out to look like a much longer book than it actually was. Let's face it, this should have been a 100 page novella. Also, I didn't find the whole cyberspace thing convincing. The only reason we know that these stories are being written and sent by e-mail is because she tells us periodically (which interrupts the flow of the narrative which has already way too many problems with flow). The dialogue in particular is very non-email and really like chat. I thought the dialogue sections were really weak and trite. I sometimes have dialogues in e-mail in which specific paragraphs are repeated and answered with layers upon layers as the messages go back and forth, but that's nothing like this. The cyberspace conceit seems sort of tacked on to make the book contemporary and hip (too uncool and archaic if these were letters and phone calls). This reads like cyberspace done by someone who hasn't actually spent any time in cyberspace. Which brings me to the aphorisms that were discussed earlier. While reading the discussion of them I was reminded that while reading the book I kept thinking that all those short seemingly clever, but rather meaningless lines would make good sig files. So, perhaps that's the part of e-mail correspondence that has made the most impact on Winterson...those tag lines. At times it seems like she is trying to construct a novel out of e-mail tag lines. The tulip story at the beginning, even though I knew it was a fable, just seemed too contrived and ridiculous to really work. Reading this book I had the feeling that I'd read something like it before only done a hundred times better. The best comparison I could come up with was that The Powerbook was almost a cross between Nicholson Baker's Vox and Italo Calvino's If On A Winter Night A Traveler, in which the result mangles and degrades the excellent style and depth of both. Ultimately I feel like Winterson is trying to fool us into thinking that this is some sort of book with power and depth but she's nowhere good enough to pull off a "style over substance" coup. The idea of The Powerbook has a lot of potential, but the whole thing falls flat because despite some nicely written vignettes, she just can't make us care about this couple and their all-too-familiar relationship problems. Just my two cents... ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (99 of 101), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Monday, February 04, 2002 03:09 PM Susan: Wow...your comments on THE POWERBOOK state my own concerns about the narrative more articulately than I could have. I agree with you 100%. In fact, I held off posting my immediate response to the book because I was afraid it would sound too flip. Had I been reviewing THE POWERBOOK, I would have called it, "funny, erotic, thought-provoking, and intelligent, but unfortunately never all at once." I think Winterson's intelligence actually works against her considerable narrative skill. Many of her riffs are way too cerebral for me. I know she's capable of writing wonderful sensory-rich fantasy, though, because her THE PASSION totally floored me. Most disappointing of all, to me, in POWERBOOK, was the whole cyberspace conceit. As you say, I never felt the least bit like I was in cyberspace while reading the book, and never felt that the author had any emotional feel for it beyond the most rudimentary aspects. What this book makes me want to do is to go back and re-read Winterson's nonfiction collection ART OBJECTS, which I thought was a real tour de force of ideas written with energy and style. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (100 of 101), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, February 04, 2002 04:00 PM Dale, I really, really liked The Passion, but I've held off reading The Powerbook because of all the negative reaction here. Your viewpoint was especially interesting to me because you also liked The Passion. Interesting. How could she go so far wrong? This is a question for someone who has read most of her earlier books: has she just said all she had to say in her previous novels?
Topic: The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson (101 of 101), Read 17 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 02:09 PM Yep. A well-thought-out and well-stated critique, Susan. A Bambi Bambi swooped us in the other topic with this: I've noticed some of you find some of her work rather incomprehensible. I think it's because she's experimenting. And it's rather the emotional stuff that get's confusing when it's not "in your language". You're either moved by it ore [sic] not. I was kinda hoping she would stick around and help us, but she swooped right on outa here. Upon further reflection though, "you're either moved by it or not" pretty much says it all. I found The Powerbook to be an interesting endeavor, but I can't say that I was moved by it at all. End of story, I guess. Steve

 
Jeanette Winterson
Jeanette Winterson

 
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