To describe Winkie as ”a novel about a teddy bear who is accused of terrorism” is insufficient to the point of uselessness. Clifford Chase’s bizarre, exhilarating, captivatingly creative, and extremely ridiculous first novel could be described as one or all of the following: memoir; sequel to The Velveteen Rabbit; political allegory; alternate life history of Teddy from Steven Spielberg’s A.I.; cautionary tale; prose poem; children’s book; utter nonsense.
Winkie is a toy bear, and Winkie is alive. Winkie talks, Winkie feels, Winkie poops. If, as a reader, you are prepared to deal with that premise — to welcome it into your heart — then read on. (If not, might we interest you in some Philip Roth, or perhaps an encyclopedia?) Winkie, after years of neglect, breaks out of the author’s childhood home, and heads into the woods where, for a halcyon time, he/she — oh, PS: Winkie is both girl and boy — lives with his/her child, Baby Winkie, a precious and possibly divine creature who quotes Foucault. The plot is, really, not the point.
Winkie is a book best read for oneself. Winkie is far from perfect. Winkie is not for everyone. But Winkie is the most ambitious book of the year so far, and is therefore worth your time — even if, in the end, you chuck this little bear up on a shelf and forget about him. Her. Winkie.