THE POWERBOOK, by Jeanette Winterson (Knopf), 289 pages, $32.95 cloth. Rating: NNN
The ego has landed, right where she belongs -- writing fiction. Those like me who think that Jeanette Winterson's impenetrable critical essays testify less to her erudition than to her inflated sense of self will be relieved that she has come back with a novel.
The PowerBook draws on the bratty Brit's strengths -- her lyrical power and erotic edge. It's the tale of a professional e-mail writer who invites her clients to take some serious risks.
Ali will write anything a person wants, provided the customer is willing to enter the story. Winterson spins off this premise to travel through cyberspace, around the world and through time, mining elements of myth, fairy tale and popular culture.
Different meaning In one interlude, Ali plays a 17th-century adventurer who smuggles tulips into Holland by disguising herself as a boy and putting the bulbs down her pants. In another, a princess falls in love with the wrong man. Desire takes on a different meaning when mountain climbers will stop at nothing to get to the top of Mount Everest.
Through such scenarios, Winterson weaves a heart-stopping story of two women falling in love -- maybe. This element is so delicious and the other tales so gorgeous that you have to wonder why she bothered with the cyberspace premise. It feels artificially imposed on the package.
Sure, Winterson gets a cool title out of it, and some credit for being in the modern moment, but the e-theme offers no deep insight into the wired world. And why bother anyway when there's so much other great stuff going on?
Diehard fans will love it, though. And so will anyone looking for a hot read.
Winterson reads Monday (November 6), 7 pm, at Young Peoples Theatre (165 Front East); $15, advance $10. She'll be introduced by Toronto Book Award winner Camilla Gibb.