Sexing the Cherry. Jeanette Winterson.
A friend lent me this last week. I had it so often on the shelves in the shop that I thought I had read it. That happened a lot. Maybe I started it but wasn’t in the mood. that happened too. Yesterday I was in the mood and loved it. practical worshipped it. Wished I had written it or could write like her. Her flights of fancy are exhilarating, and the apparent ease with which she writes them down (no fancy words, no fancy style) make their impact immediate and hefty. I laughed aloud with pleasure at her sequels to the marriages of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, the ones that turned into geese every evening and flew away to party until ‘rescued’ by an elderly prince. In Jeanette's version he has eleven brothers and each sister is forced to marry one of them. These marriages do not go happily ever after.
The action skips merrily from century to century, carried mostly by the central character, an enormous woman, born out of a bottle from which she escapes, ballooning like a genie as she does so. She finds a baby half drowned in the filthy C17th Thames, rescues him and calls him Jordan (in memory of Moses.)
It’s like reading a long prose poem. There were sentences that jumped off the page and popped me one in the eye, and although I allow that the sentences to jump at me will probably not be those that jump at other readers, I’m putting them here:
‘Islands are metaphors for the heart, no matter what poets say otherwise. My own heart, like this wild place, has never been visited and I do not know whether it could sustain life. ‘
‘Time has no meaning; space and place have no meaning on this journey. All time can be inhabited, all places visited. In a single day the mind can make a millpond of the oceans.’
‘The self is not contained in any moment or any place but it is only in the intersection of moment and place that the self might, for a moment, be seen vanishing through a door, which disappears at once.’
‘Is knowledge increasing or is detail accumulating?’
And now I’ve written them down they don’t look so sparkly, which intrigues me and leaves me wondering if that means they needed their settings. A diamond, however beautiful, is enhanced by a fine setting. There’s a thought - which when I come on it another day will have lost its gloss.