Thursday, August 30, 2012

508. Sexing the Cherry – Jeanette Winterson

History: This book was written in 1989.
Plot: Set in 17th century London, Sexing the Cherry is about the journeys of a mother, known as The Dog Woman, and her protégé, Jordan. They journey in a space-time flux: across the seas to find exotic fruits such as bananas and pineapples; and across time, with glimpses of "the present" and references to Charles I of England and Oliver Cromwell. The mother’s physical appearance is somewhat "grotesque". She is a giant, wrapped in a skirt big enough to serve as a ship’s sail and strong enough to fling an elephant. She is also hideous, with smallpox scars in which fleas live, a flat nose and foul teeth. Her son, however, is proud of her, as no other mother can hold a good dozen oranges in her mouth all at once. Ultimately, their journey is a journey in search of The Self.
Review: The central relationship is between Jordan and the Dog Woman. It is a savage love, an unorthodox love, it is family life carried to the grotesque, but it is not a parody or a negative. The boisterous surrealism of their bond is in the writing itself. By writing the familiar into the strange, by wording the unlovely into words-as-jewels, what is outcast can be brought home. I have also thought of myself as an outcast, but I have made myself a territory by writing it. Sexing the Cherry is a cross-time novel in the same way that The Passion is cross-gender. The narrative moves through time, but also operates outside it. At the centre of the book are the stories of the Twelve Dancing Princess, each only a page long, written as a kind of fugue. The stories aren't just parachuted in there, they are integral to the whole, in just the same way that the Percival stories are integral to Oranges. That is, they tell us something we need to know to interpret the book.
Opening Line: “My name is Jordan.”
Closing Line: “Empty space and points of light.”
Quotes: “Rule book about men.
1. Men are easy to please but are not pleased for long before some new novelty must delight them.
2. Men are easy to make passionate but unable to sustain it.
3. Men are always seeking soft women but find their lives in ruin without strong women.
4. Men must be occupied at all times otherwise they make mischief.
5. Men deem themselves weighty and women light. Therefore it is simple to tie a stone around their necks and drown them should they become too troublesome.
6. Men are best left in groups by themselves where they will entirely wear themselves out in drunkenness and competition. While this is taking place a woman may carry on with her own life unhindered.
7. Men are never never to be trusted with what is closest to your heart, and if it is they who are closest to your heart, do not tell them.
8. If a man asks you for money, do not give it to him.
9. If you ask a man for money and he does not give it to you, sell his richest possession and leave at once.
10. Your greatest strength is that every man believes he knows the sum and possibility of every woman.”
Rating: Abstract.  

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