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Amber Paulen

Jeanette Winterson

Sexing the Cherry

15 April 2008


Time drapes like a sheet, as the back-drop of this tight-little book. The sheet billows for a bit as it catches a breeze, it collapses and exhales slight undulating ripples across the smooth surface. Time can be folded up or curled into or, as in Sexing the Cherry, time may be painted on. But this book is not ‘about’ time—though time certainly has something to do with it.

There is a certain shivering thrill I experience whilst reading short books. Perhaps this is part symptom of short books being something I rarely do. Heavy books are leagues ahead in their attraction. Yet small books have their virtues too. Jeanette Winterson’s writing is so perfectly concise: no words misplaced, no words gone missing. The imagery of short books is a sharpened poignancy that is rarely off mark, like a javelin thrown by steady, skilled knight. Sexing the Cherry reads like a book that could fit down a funnel; without a speck of unctuousness, all of it shakes together so indivisibly.

My highest gratification was in Jordan and his voyages, his discoveries of time.

The inward life tells us that we are multiple not single, and that our existence is really countless existences holding hands like those cut-out paper dolls, but unlike the dolls never coming to an end.

Jeanette Winterson has created two characters for her main ones; both Jordan and his mother, the Dog Woman, have ‘replicas’ in the present day. We live in a constant state of multiplicity. If, during the reading of this book, you paused to gather everyone you have ever been, you would see yourselves holding hands with the author, her characters, and everyone else they have ever been. An unstoppable chain.

Thinking about time is like turning the globe round and round, recognizing that all journeys exist simultaneously, that to be in one place is not to deny the existence of another, even though that place cannot be felt or seen, our usual criteria for belief.

I have often thought I was meant to live in another era, that my ways are better suited to some turtle-paced time. I have often thought—before I began writing—that my life was like slides in a projector; the faster I spun them, the more seamlessly they came together, the slower I went, the more visible the cracks became. I believe a singular life would be less satisfying; I am able to find voices for all my multiplicity through writing.

Then, there is the Dog Woman. A domineering name for a domineering lady. She is perhaps the defiance of space. She reminds me of large ideas I’ve had, ones that promised to swallow me up if I couldn’t stick to my defenses. Her proportions defy her descriptions; her features are at best grotesque, she wears fine pearls around a recently scrubbed neck. I enjoyed her musings on sex, such a bestial grounding when compared to Jordan’s own ephemeral thoughts. After all, he’s after a dancing woman who does not exist.

I also enjoyed the Dog Woman’s, almost lustful, rampages. So cut and dry in their sense of goal, which is not even apparent to her. She does what she has need to do. And it is she who gives lead to the internal discourses on love. Such softness, striking against her appearance. (Though her appearance is only a projection of her inner-hugeness, as we learn from her ‘replica.’)

I am too huge for love. No one, male or female, has ever dared to approach me. They are afraid to scale mountains.

If she is too huge to be loved then she has a huge love for Jordan (and her dogs.) I found a peacefulness to her pure love without desperation. She knows Jordan is going to leave her. She is the one who discovered him as a child in the water; she is the one who named him after a river.

Jeanette Winterson is surely “a poet who thinks.” In Sexing the Cherry she has taken our dull lives and proved that they sparkle. Below everyone is a myth, and below that myth are multiple myths.

Bracciano Italy
April 2008



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