Thursday, August 03, 2006

Winkie by Clifford Chase

I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but with this novel, the title, the cover (a one-eyed teddy bear in an interrogation room) and the endpapers (mugshots of the one-eyed teddy bear) made me pretty sure I'd like it. And I did, though it wasn't what I expected. The novel is the story of Winkie, a transgender teddy bear who can walk and talk and who is arrested and tried for the crimes of a Unabomber-esque terrorist (who actually kidnapped Winkie's baby). The summary and every review I read of the novel suggested it would be hilariously funny. But in reality it's tremendously sad. The concept is funny, the book is a satire, in certain ways, of our current American administration, but the parts that are most effective and that dominate the book are the interior thoughts of Winkie, who is really a representation of the saddest, loneliest child ever to exist in literature. I had lots more to say about the writing but I took too long between reading it and writing it up and I've forgotten it all, so you'll have to figure it out for yourself.

One interesting side note, one of the jacket blurbs is from Stephin Merrit, the central force of the band The Magnetic Fields. This is the first blurb I've seen from a non-writer, non-reviewer, and it's symbolic of the desire to market this book to a group of consumers (hipsters, presumably), rather than to particular readers. It's probably a sensible way for publishers to go... if Nike can be a part of your identity, if your favorite band can be, why not your favorite character? Merritt's quote is actually about considering a Winkie tattoo, which fits right in with the idea of branding fiction. Winkie, btw, has a blog and a MySpace page.

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