This is a remix.
I am always pretty shocked when I find that my opinions have changed, particularly when I notice that they have changed drastically. It is happening more and more often as time goes by, particularly with reading. At some point in the past decade, I started enjoying non-fiction much more than fiction. I have no idea why. Similarly, I was a massive fan of Jeanette Winterson some years ago.
Jeanette Winterson’s ‘The Gap in Time’ is a retelling of William Shakespeare’s ‘A Winter Tale’. The original is the tale of a king who, in a fit of madness and envy, becomes convinced that his youngest child isn’t his, and arranged to have it sent away. In Winterson’s ‘remix’ (their word, not mine. Do people still use this?) a successful business man goes through a similar madness and accuses his wife of having a child with his best friend. Fueled by said madness, he even foregoes the process of doing something as simple as a paternity test, before sending the child off.
I am kind of impressed that Winterson pulled this off at all.
That happened at a point in the novel where the characters stopped to have a particular long and drawn out philosophical conversation. Now, I like long drawn out philosophical conversations, or at least I like having them. And I am sure that I would have enjoyed this particular one had I read it several years ago. But at some point in my recent adulthood I realized that, for the most part, people don’t have long philosophical discussions. And the conversation in this book felt jarring for that reason. My only reaction was “people don’t speak that way.”, all the while somewhere deep inside kind of wishing that they did.
Maybe I have outgrown Jeanette Winterson.
But I do think that she did a really extraordinary job of modernizing the story. Shakespeare’s stories a little on the ridiculous side, but we forgive them for some reasons. Jeanette Winterson provides us with a synopsis of the original, and I immediately asked myself how she was going to pull off ‘sending the child away’. In the description above I avoided writing it because I thought it was one of the more interesting parts of the book. It cant be stressed enough how well Winterson took a silly little Shakespearean comdeic plot and managed to make it seem plausible today, while inserting many of the themes that she often addresses in her work. It really did feel like much of any achievement.
It made the book interesting, but I am not sure it made it memorable. There have been a couple of Winterson’s more recent books that I have not enjoyed, and maybe I have simply outgrown her. It might be time to reread one of her older books and see how I still feel.