#38 – Sexing the Cherry

August 11, 2007

oh how we danced, and you whispered to me, you’ll never be going back homeBefore I decided to read it, I’d never heard of Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry. It made the list because Paul Neilan said it’s in his top three books, and so I anticipated it to be a) worth reading, and b) really, really funny. I guess I was a little bit right on both counts, but in the end, I didn’t get this book at all. It was entertaining enough to finish, but completely over my head. I felt like I was watching a David Lynch movie – I could tell there was something fascinating going on, and I’m sure I would have been able to put it together if I pored over it a bit more. As a result, I think I get what’s happening in Mulholland Dr. after watching it three or four times, but I’m not invested enough in Lost Highway (or Sexing the Cherry) to put the effort into deciphering it.

On its most superficial level (that is to say, the level I understood), Sexing the Cherry is a story set during the English Civil War, about an explorer who travels the world looking for new and exotic fruit, and his psychotic, homicidal, gargantuan beast of a mother.  This is entertaining enough; in the mother’s narrative, she casually slaughters hundreds of people for minor offences like it’s no problem at all, and in the son’s, he brings the first pineapple back to England in 1650 and describes people losing their minds at how bizarre it is – pretty funny stuff.  It’s just that Winterson doesn’t just tell that story, she goes off on a thousand tangents from it.  Long sections about fairy tale characters that make you forget you’re reading a book with a narrative, seemingly random lists which I’m sure have to have some larger significance, and a sudden jump to the year 1990 with little connection and no explanation.  A smarter man than I (apparently Paul Neilan) would be able to put these pieces together and find a book they could love.  I was just glad to get through it and move on to something else.  If you’re up for a challenge, and ideally if you have a degree in Literary Theory, this might be worth a look.


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