Another of the Jeanette Winterson books that I missed when it came out. This book takes place almost entirely in cyberspace (and I use this specific phrasing in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way) where Alix, an email writer can offer up any story or piece of writing on demand. This opens up a lot of possibility for those who want stories told. The style and execution of this novel is lightly narrated, and sparsely described, except in the world of the stories themselves, which are richly detailed. The frame narrative has almost no weight or gravity in the prose of the book. It’s very similar in this way to her newest novel Frankisstein. So the effect of the book is a kind of bodiless narrative about writing in bodiless spaces and the freedom and limitations of this world.
It came out in 2000, and it really made me recall what it was like to have an online life back then. We got our first computer in the spring of 1999 when I was just finishing my 11th grade year, and we got internet at the same time. I spent hours online (through dial up) and in those first months I only had an email address (through hotmail) and no AIM. I fell for a girl in my English class (who of course had a boyfriend) and at the end of the school year she asked me out on a “friend” date when her boyfriend was out of town, and throughout the early part of the summer in order to execute our elaborately detailed (but fairly chaste) affair she would email me saying she was going to call me, then I would have to get offline and wait for a call, that I had to pick up on the first ring to not wake my mom, and then sneak out. And this this jumping back and forth between online and “meatspaces” (a phrase I won’t use, but the book does) created this kind of caught between world. Our later, overly (melo)dramatic AIM conversations that we couldn’t or wouldn’t recreate in person continued to shape this dichotomy of experience that has become the new norm in a lot of ways. But this book captures that early sense of wonderment with these dueling spaces.