Winterson’s words wander off


Last week, a BBC news article told the tale of a lost manuscript. It seems that Jeanette Winterson's latest (unpublished) novel, The Stone Gods, was found on a bench in a London Underground station.

At first I imagined Winterson herself leaving the manuscript behind. If you've been to one of her readings, you know that she's rather intense and also somewhat easily distracted. I can just see her scrawling on a page in disgust and throwing a sheaf of A4 paper down on a bench — only to then leave it behind in order to chase down some food or a passing blonde.

I'm kidding, Jeanette!

And anyway, it turns out Winterson was nowhere near the thing; the blame lies with someone who works for her publisher, Penguin. Wouldn't it be cool if an actual penguin were to blame? After all, those flightless fowl are notorious for failing to return borrowed books.

It gets better: The manuscript was rescued by a Tooting teacher.

Ms. Oster, a teacher from Tooting, south London, was returning from a night out with colleagues when she spotted the manuscript. She said: "I sat down to wait for my train and it was just lying on the bench. There was no-one around, so it had obviously been left by someone. I'm nosey so I picked it up, had a flick through, and realised what it was. I was amazed to find it like that."

Ms. Oster said she recognised Ms. Winterson's name immediately. "I studied Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit for A-level, and I have a couple of her books at home."

At least it was found by an honest soul. If I'd happened upon the thing, I'm not sure I'd have been able to stop myself from penning a parody, to be published on the very same day as the novel. On second thought, Winterson would probably enjoy that.

I think she'd also enjoy this story, featured as a "related" link on the page that reports the lost manuscript: "Bizarre items left by commuters: A lawn mower, Rolex watches and a theatrical coffin are among the 150,000 items people have left on the Tube, buses and taxis this year."

"While Londoners are most likely to lose mobile phones and books on public transport, items left behind range from the mundane to the surreal. Three dead bats in a container, a jar of bull sperm and a £2,000 TV left in the back of a taxi are among them. … Items held at the lost property office at Baker Street in the past have included two human skulls in a bag, a divan bed and three World War II gas masks."

Bats and bull sperm and skulls … there's your next mythical memoir, Ms. Winterson.

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