16 April 2010

Sexing the Cherry (Jeanette Winterson)

Oh I really don't know Jeanette. This was just a tad too over the top for me.

Hark? What's this you say? You LOVE magical realism Alcott. You adore it. How will you NOT be citing this novel as a sublime source of inspiration when you finally have an oeuvre to call your own?

I didn't read it in one swift gulp. Perhaps that is why I wasn't completely enamoured with this trip of a novel. It's hard to read something called Sexing the Cherry when you work with children. I had to hide it between the covers of a Where's Waldo. The unanimous verdict is that I SUCK at Where's Waldo.

This is a highly theatrical novel. The characters of Jordan and The Dog Woman are not quite sculpted enough to be real, which adds to the ethereal nature of their journey. I say ethereal, but that doesn't sound quite right. That word is so beautiful, filled with light and music. These characters are dark and putrid and flea-ridden and grotesque. They are without softness, which makes their struggle towards gentleness that much stranger. Essentially, this is the story of a mother and son moving towards a discovery of themselves, with some hilariously bizarre humour, disgusting anecdotes and a fairytale thrown in for good measure.

Something about this novel made me think of Russell Brand. I can imagine him on stage, flinging out lines of prose from the story; scurrying to and fro imitating The Dog Woman's misconception of fellatio, Jordan's quest for Fortunata, the twelve dancing princesses slowly but surely annihilating their husbands. Brand, for all his curmudgeonly ways, has a likeability and empathy about him which would bring joy to the words. As they are now, Winterson's story reads as though it has no sympathy for human frailty. I feel like the book is waiting to swallow me whole if I am not strong enough to read it. To be scared of the book you are reading is entirely unsettling.

Alternatively, the other setting where I can see the prose from this novel fitting admirably is a group of players, waltzing down a street on market day in a parade, loudly declaiming the lines, entirely naked. The words they shout draw the crowds and then, one by one, the players pick off the weaklings and eat them. The bones they throw to a pack of salivating Shar-Peis.


I THOUGHT I had a friend back in Australia who told me with glee she got most of her sex education from this book. I profess myself worried, although I suspect that maybe she said The Passion, also by Winterson.

I bloody hope so.

Rating: 7/10.
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