I was back in one of my favorite bookshops recently: The Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado. Since I was last there, they’ve started selling second-hand books as well as new, and they mix them in on the shelves with the new – a great idea. So you can come across a new and a used copy of the same book, cozied up together on the shelf.
I was looking for Daniel Woodrell’s “The Outlaw Album” (found it, bought it, read it, loved it). Close by was a second-hand copy of Jeanette Winterson’s “The.Powerbook”. Winterson is one of my favorite writers, and I hadn’t read “The.Powerbook” so I snapped it up and carried it home to Australia.
There’s a love letter written inside the front cover of this copy, from the giver of the book to the receiver. Two women. And it’s poignant and beautiful and tender and heartfelt, and it makes me rather sad as I wonder why the receiver gave this book away (or otherwise had it taken from her possession) with such a paean of love inside the front cover. I’m not going to reproduce it here, as it would be like breaking a trust.
I was reading “The.Powerbook” in bed last night, and I came to one particular passage. I read it, stopped, put the book down, thought for a bit, picked the book up and read it again. And then a third time. It was still in my head this morning, so I’m posting it here.
It’s by no means a new thought, but it encapsulates an attitude I consciously work at, that of not taking the easy road.
“There is always the danger of automatic writing. The danger of writing yourself towards an ending that need never be told. At a certain point the story gathers momentum. It convinces itself, and does its best to convince you, that the end in sight is the only possible outcome. There is a fatefulness and a loss of control that are somehow comforting. This was your script, but now it writes itself.
Break the narrative. Refuse all the stories that have been told so far (because that is what the momentum really is), and try to tell the story differently – in a different style, with different weights – and allow some air to those elements choked with centuries of use, and give some substance to the floating world.
In quantum reality there are millions of possible worlds, unactualised, potential, perhaps bearing in on us, but only reachable by wormholes we can never find. If we do find one, we don’t come back.
In those other worlds events may track our own, but the ending will be different. Sometimes we need a different ending.
I can’t take my body through space and time, but I can send my mind, and use the stories, written and unwritten, to tumble me out in a place not yet existing – my future.”
Jeanette Winterson “The.Powerbook”