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Frankissstein : a love story / Jeanette Winterson.

By: Winterson, Jeanette, 1959-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London : Jonathan Cape, an imprint of Vintage, 2019Copyright date: ©2019Description: 343 pages ; 22 cm.ISBN: 9781787331419 (paperback); 1787331415.Other title: Fran kiss stein : a love story | Frankisstein.Contained works: Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851.Subject(s): Transgender people -- Fiction | Artificial intelligence -- Social aspects -- Fiction | Sex dolls -- Fiction | Cryonics -- Fiction | Gender identity -- Fiction | Genetic engineering -- Fiction | Great Britain -- Fiction | Phoenix (Ariz.) -- FictionDDC classification: 823.92 Summary: "An audacious new novel about the bodies we live in and the bodies we desire In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love - against their better judgement - with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere. Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryogenics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead... but waiting to return to life. But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. `I have no fear, therefore I am powerful.' What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest thing on the planet? Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realise. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself."--Publisher.
List(s) this item appears in: The Man Booker Prize Longlist 2019
Item type Current location Collection Call number Status Date due Barcode Item reserves
Default St Albans Library (DIY)
Fiction WINT Available IA2040383
Default Sydenham Library
Fiction WINT Issued 14/11/2019 IA2040382
Total reserves: 0

"An audacious new novel about the bodies we live in and the bodies we desire In Brexit Britain, a young transgender doctor called Ry is falling in love - against their better judgement - with Victor Stein, a celebrated professor leading the public debate around AI. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with Mum again, is set to make his fortune launching a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere. Across the Atlantic, in Phoenix, Arizona, a cryogenics facility houses dozens of bodies of men and women who are medically and legally dead... but waiting to return to life. But the scene is set in 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley writes a story about creating a non-biological life-form. `I have no fear, therefore I am powerful.' What will happen when homo sapiens is no longer the smartest thing on the planet? Jeanette Winterson shows us how much closer we are to that future than we realise. Funny and furious, bold and clear-sighted, Frankissstein is a love story about life itself."--Publisher.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

Lake Geneva, 1816 Reality is water-soluble. What we could see, the rocks, the shore, the trees, the boats on the lake, had lost their usual definition and blurred into the long grey of a week's rain. Even the house, that we fancied was made of stone, wavered inside a heavy mist and through that mist, sometimes, a door or a window appeared like an image in a dream. Every solid thing had dissolved into its watery equivalent. Our clothes did not dry. When we came in, and we must come in, because we must go out, we brought the weather with us. Waterlogged leather. Wool that stank of sheep. There is mould on my underclothes. This morning I had the idea to walk naked. What is the use of sodden cloth? Of covered buttons so swollen in their buttonholes that I had to be cut out of my dress yesterday? This morning my bed was as wet as if I had sweated all night. The windows were misty with my own breath. Where the fire burned in the grate the wood hissed like a dejection of nature. I left you sleeping and I trod silently down the filmy stairs, my feet wet. Naked. I opened the main door to the house. The rain continued, steady and indifferent. For seven days now it had fallen, not faster, not slower, not increasing, not abating. The earth could swallow no more and the ground everywhere was spongy - the gravel paths oozed water, and several springs had burst through the orderly garden, eroding soil that deposited itself in thick black puddles at our gate. But this morning it was behind the house I went, higher up the slope, hoping for a break in the clouds, where I might see the lake that lay below us. As I climbed, I reflected on what it must have been for our ancestors, without fire, often without shelter, wandering in nature, so beautiful and bountiful, but so pitiless in her effects. I reflected that without language, or before language, the mind cannot comfort itself. And yet it is the language of our thoughts that tortures us more than any excess or deprivation of nature. What would it be like - nay, what would it be? There is no like, no likeness to this question. What would it be, to be a being without language - not an animal, but something nearer to myself? Here I am, in my inadequate skin, goose-fleshed and shivering. A poor specimen of a creature, with no nose of a dog, and no speed of a horse, and no wings like the invisible buzzards whose cries I hear above me like lost souls, and no fins or even a mermaid's tail for this wrung-out weather. I am not as well-found as that dormouse disappearing into a crack in the rock. I am a poor specimen of a creature, except that I can think. In London I was not so content as I am here on the lake and in the Alps, where there is solitude for the mind. London is perpetual; a constant streaming present hurrying towards a receding future. Here, where time is neither so crammed nor so scarce, I fancy, anything might happen, anything is possible.The world is at the start of something new. We are the shaping spirits of our destiny. And though I am not an inventor of machines I am an inventor of dreams. Yet I wish I had a cat. I am now above the roofline of the house, the chimneys poking through the damp cloth of steaming rain like the ears of a giant animal. My skin is covered in beads of clear water as though I have been embroidered with water. There is something fine about my decorated nakedness. My nipples are like the teats of a rain-god. My pubic hair, always thick, teems like a dark shoal. The rain increases steady as a waterfall and me inside it. My eyelids are drenched. I'm wiping my eyeballs with my fists. Shakespeare. He coined that word: eyeball. What play is it in? Eyeball? Crush this herb into Lysander's eye Whose liquor hath this virtuous property And make his eye-balls roll with wonted sight. Then I see it. I think I see it. What do I seem to see? A figure, gigantic, ragged, moving swiftly on the rocks above me, climbing away from me, his back turned to me, his movements sure, and at the same time hesitant, like a young dog whose paws are too big for him. I thought to call out but I confess I was afraid. And then the vision was gone. Surely, I thought, if it is some traveller who has lost his way he will find our villa. But he was climbing away, as though he had found the villa already and passed on. Troubled that I had indeed seen a figure, equally troubled that I had imagined him, I made my return to the house. I crept in softly, this time through a side door, and, shivering with cold, I made my way up the curve of the staircase. My husband stood on the landing. I approached him, naked as Eve, and I saw the man of him stir beneath the apron of his shirt. I was out walking, I said. Naked? he said. Yes, I said. He put out his hand and touched my face. What is your substance, whereof are you made, That millions of strange shadows on you tend? We were all around the fire that night, the room more shadows than light, for we had few candles, and none could be fetched until the weather bettered. Is this life a disordered dream? Is the external world the shadow, while the substance is what we cannot see, or touch, or hear, yet apprehend? Why, then, is this dream of life so nightmarish? Feverish? Sweatish? Or is it that we are neither dead nor alive? A being neither dead nor alive. All my life I have feared such a state, and so it has seemed better to me to live how I can live, and not fear death. So I left with him at seventeen and these two years have been life to me. In the summer of 1816 the poets Shelley and Byron, Byron's physician, Polidori, Mary Shelley and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont, by then Byron's mistress, rented two properties on Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Byron enjoyed the grand Villa Diodati, while the Shelleys took a smaller, more charming house, a little lower down the slope. Such was the notoriety of the households that an hotel on the farther shore of the lake set up a telescope for their guests to watch the antics of the supposed Satanists and Sexualists who held their women in common. It is true that Polidori was in love with Mary Shelley but she refused to sleep with him. Byron might have slept with Percy Shelley, if Shelley had been so inclined, but there is no evidence of that. Claire Clairmont would have slept with anyone - on this occasion she slept only with Byron. The households spent all their time together - and then it started to rain. My husband adores Byron. Each day they take a boat out on the lake, to talk about poetry and liberty, whilst I avoid Claire, who can talk about nothing. I must avoid Polidori, who is a lovesick dog.But then the rain came, and these downpouring days allow for no lake-work. At least the weather allows no staring at us from the farther shore either. In town I heard the rumour that a guest had spied half a dozen petticoats spread out to dry on Byron's terrace. In truth, what they saw was bed linen. Byron is a poet but he likes to be clean. And now we are confined by innumerable gaolers, each formed out of a drop of water. Polidori has brought a girl up from the village to entertain him, and we do what we can on our damp beds, but the mind must be exercised as well as the body. That night we sat around the steaming fire talking of the supernatural. Shelley is fascinated by moonlit nights and the sudden sight of ruins. He believes that every building carries an imprint of the past, like a memory, or memories, and that these can be released if the time is right. But what is the right time? I asked him, and he wondered if time itself depends on those who are in time. If time uses us as channels for the past - yes, that must be so, he said, as some people can speak to the dead. Polidori does not agree. The dead are gone. If we have souls, they do not return. The cadaver on the slab has no hope of resurrection - in this world or the next. Byron is an atheist and does not believe in life after death. We are haunted by ourselves , he says, and that is enough for any man. Claire said nothing because she has nothing to say. The servant brought us wine. It is a relief to have a liquid that is not water. We are like the drowned, said Shelley. We drank the wine. The shadows make a world on the walls. This is our Ark, I said, peopled here, afloat, waiting for the waters to abate. What do you imagine they talked about, on the Ark, said Byron, shut in with the hot stink of animal? Did they believe that the entire earth sat in a watery envelope, like the foetus in the womb? Polidori interrupted excitedly (he is a great one for interrupting excitedly). In medical school we had a row of just such foetuses, at varying stages of gestation, allabortions; fingers and toes curled against the inevitable, eyes closed against the light never to be seen. The light is seen - I said - the mother's skin stretched over the growing child lets in the light. They turn in joy towards the sun. Shelley smiled at me. When I was pregnant with William, he used to get on his knees as I sat on the edge of the bed and hold my stomach in his hands like a rare book he hadn't read. This is the world in little , he said. And that morning, oh I remember it, we sat in the sun together and I felt my baby kick for joy. But Polidori is a doctor, not a mother. He sees things differently. I was going to say, he said, a little resentful at being interrupted (as interrupters are wont to be), I was going to say , that, whether there is a soul or there is not a soul, the moment of consciousness is mysterious. Where is consciousness in the womb? Male children are conscious earlier than female children, said Byron. I asked him what caused him to think so. He replied, The male principle is readier and more active than the female principle. This we observe in life. We observe that men subjugate women, I said. I have a daughter of my own, said Byron. She is docile and passive. Ada is but six months old! And you have not seen her at all since shortly after she was born! What child, male or female, does more than sleep and suck when it is born? That is not their sex; it is their biology! Ah, said Byron, I thought she would be a glorious boy. If I must sire girls, then I trust she will marry well. Is there not more to life than marriage? I asked. For a woman? said Byron. Not at all. For a man, love is of his life, a thing apart. For a woman, it is her whole existence. My mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, would not agree with you, I said. And yet she tried to kill herself for love , said Byron. Gilbert Imlay . A charmer. A chancer. A mercenary. A man of mercurial mind and predictable behaviour (why is it so often so?). My mother jumping off a bridge in London, her skirts making a parachute for her falling body. She did not die. No, she did not die. That came later. Giving birth to me. Shelley saw my hurt and discomfort. When I read your mother's book, said Shelley, looking at Byron, not at me, I was convinced by her. I loved him for that - then and now - he first told me so when I was a young girl of sixteen, and the proud daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman . 1792. Your mother's work, said Shelley, shy and confident in that way of his, your mother's work is remarkable. Would that I might do something myself, I said, to be worthy of her memory. Why is it that we wish to leave some mark behind? said Byron. Is it only vanity? No, I said, it is hope. Hope that one day there will be a human society that is just. That will never happen, said Polidori. Not unless every human being is wiped away and we begin again. Wipe every human being away, said Byron; yes, why not? And so we are back to our floated Ark. God had the right idea. Begin again. Yet he saved eight, said Shelley, for the world must be peopled. We are a little half-ark here ourselves, are we not? observed Byron. We four in our watery world. Five, said Claire. I forgot, said Byron. There will be a revolution in England, said Shelley, as there has been in America, and in France, and then, truly, we shall begin again. And how shall we avoid what follows revolution? We have witnessed the French problem in our own lifetime. Firstly the Terror, where every man becomes a spy against his neighbour, and then the Tyrant. Napoleon Bonaparte - is he to be preferred to a king? The French Revolution gave nothing to the people, said Shelley - and so they look for a strong man who claims to give them what they do not have. None can be free unless first he is fed. Do you believe that if every person had enough money, enough work, enough leisure, enough learning, that if they were not oppressed by those above them, or fearful of those below them, humankind would be perfected? Byron asked this in his negative drawl, sure of the response, and so I set out to disaffect him. I do! I said. I do not! said Byron. The human race seeks its own death. We hasten towards what we fear most. I shook my head. I was on firm ground now in this ark of ours. I said, It is men who seek death. If a single one of you carried a life in his womb for nine months, only to see that child perish as a baby, or in infancy, or through want, disease, or, thereafter, war, you would not seek death in the way that you do. Yet death is heroic , said Byron. And life is not . Excerpted from Frankissstein: A Love Story by Jeanette Winterson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

In this bold and humorous narrative, award-winning author Winterson (The Gap of Time) connects the past and the present. In the past, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, considers her expatriate life with her husband, poet Percy Shelley; Lord Byron; and others, revealing the evolution of the story of this famous novel by a female writer amid the patriarchal constrictions of the early 1800s. The present narrative blasts off at a robotics conference with an emphasis on sexual gratification via robot. Here we meet the transgender Dr. Ry Shelly, supplier of severed limbs to Victor Stein, a scientist working to decode and store human consciousness. The depiction of Ry and Victor's sexual relationship explores elements of transgender life and ideas of transhumanism. As the book shifts in time, themes such as mechanical computers and cryogenic preservation are further developed. VERDICT As the subtitle declares, this is a love story, paralleling the relationship between Mary Shelley and Percy Shelley and that between Ry and Victor. The forthright description of nonbinary choice forms a replete example of embracing transgender experience, and both Victor Stein and Victor Frankenstein are finally shown to be illusory characters, adding spookiness. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/19.]--Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA

Publishers Weekly Review

Winterson (The Gap of Time) reimagines literary classic Frankenstein--both the story and the genesis of it--in her magnificent latest. The book shuttles back and forth between 1816, when a challenge leads Mary Shelley to write her indelible character and the monster he creates, and the present day, when a transgender man named Ry Shelley delves deeper into the burgeoning world and industry surrounding robotics and AI. A medical doctor, Ry supplies body parts to the professor Victor Stein, a brilliant if elusive man whose vision of the future is one in which human intelligence can transcend the limitations of needing a physical body. Victor's interest in Ry is multifold: there is what Ry can procure for him through hospitals, and there is attraction--both romantic and platonic interest in the physical manifestation of Ry's gender identity, which Victor calls "future-early" and Ry calls "doubleness." Winterson's recreation of the story of Mary Shelley's creative process and later life and work is splendid, but it's the modern analogue of the famous Lake Geneva party that is truly inspired. There is the hilariously crass sexbot entrepreneur Ron Lord, the evangelical capitalist Claire, and the nosy nuisance of Vanity Fair reporter Polly D, who's constantly convinced she's on to something. This vividly imagined and gorgeously constructed novel will have readers laughing out loud--and then pondering their personhood and mortality on the next page. Agent: Caroline Michel; Peters, Fraser & Dunlop. (Oct.)

Booklist Review

Winterson's agile imagination prompts her to bridge distant times and improvise on oft-told tales with impish and serious intent. In her eleventh novel, she keeps readers off-kilter in a complex, two-track homage to Mary Shelley and the ever-relevant questions raised by her masterpiece, Frankenstein. In gracefully brooding, rain-drenched scenes set along Lake Geneva two centuries ago, courageous radical Shelley ponders the implications of the unnerving story that has taken hold of her. In the present, a transgender doctor, Ry Shelley, gets caught up in hubristic schemes concocted by his celebrity professor lover, Victor Stein, who is secretly at work on a macabre union of body parts and AI, and a curiously innocent purveyor of ego-boosting sexbots. Ultimately, their adventures involve cryogenics, the singularity, and a vast underground Cold War laboratory. Winterson shimmers and sparks in this at once sensitive and caustic, philosophical and funny inquiry into the body-mind conundrum, what we consider monstrous and what we think makes us human, the rainbow spectrum of gender and sexuality, and how our technologically enhanced fears and desires might impact the planet's future.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2010 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

An author known for her explorations of gender, desire, and imagination takes us to the past to look into the future.There is probably no novel written in English with a more well-known origin story than Frankenstein. The scene of that work's conceptionLake Geneva, 1816is where Winterson begins her reimagining of science fiction's ur-text. Mary Shelley herself is the narrator. Keenly observant, sensitive without being fragile, and utterly unashamed of her own sexuality, Winterson's (Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere, 2018, etc.) Shelley is a brilliant creation. The contemporary author, being well versed in the gothic tropes that her predecessor deployed, plays with doubles and doppelgngers throughout, and her second narrator, Ry Shelley, is an echo both of Mary Shelley and the monster who is the invention of Mary Shelley's invention. Ry, given the name Mary at birth, identifies as trans and works for a company devoted to cryogenicsto restoring the dead to life. It's in this capacity that he meets Victor Stein, the "high-functioning madman" who will become his lover. Victor is famous as an expert in artificial intelligence. But Ry discovers that Victor has othermessierpursuits as well. As is perhaps apt, this is a novel of many parts, so there are also interludes set in Bedlam, where Victor Frankenstein becomes an inmate and Mary Shelley is his visitor. There are special pleasures here for readers familiar with the science and philosophy of the early 19th century, such as when a 20th-century evangelical Christian goes undercover at the cryogenics lab to investigate where the soul goes when we die and whether or not it returns if the body is reanimated. But no specialist knowledge is needed to appreciate this inquisitive novel, because the questions Winterson is asking are questions that have always been with us. What is love? What is life? What am I, and what do I desire to be? Of course Winterson has no answers; what she offers instead is a passionate plea that we keep asking these questions as we refashion ourselves and our world.Beguiling, disturbing, and full of wonders. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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