Sexing The Cherry

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Sexing The Cherry

Post by Litlove on Sat Jan 31, 2009 3:29 pm

Hello all! Welcome to the new forum, which I hope I am using correctly.... I'm sure it will become apparent soon if I'm not.

I must say I found Sexing The Cherry tremendously hard to write about. It's got so much in it for such a little book, and yet there's no simple plot to discuss or character development to consider. It's rangy and baggy and decidedly odd, even if also vivid and creative and funny. So as usual I just wittered on for absolutely ages, thinking I'd offer some background information and then ending up trying to do more with it, probably unwisely! I know from reading around the blogworld that people have very mixed feelings about the book. What did everyone else think?

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by Stefanie on Sat Jan 31, 2009 3:52 pm

Litlove, I think you wrote about the book just fine. It is hard to write about and I approached it from a single element because I couldn't possibly say anything coherent if I tried to include everything!

I liked the book very much in spite of its faults. It seems that Winterson was trying to make the book like one of Fortunata's dancers. She set it spinning and spinning until it began humming and shooting off sparks of light.

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by Rebecca H. on Sat Jan 31, 2009 4:25 pm

The new forum looks great! I haven't written my post yet (that's a job for this evening), but I thought I'd jump in here anyway ... thanks Litlove to leading us to this book! It certainly was an interesting read, although I was one of the ones who had mixed feelings about it. I'm afraid the post I end up writing will be mostly about my mixed response -- very much focused on me and not on the book. I can see why it's hard to write about. For me, what stands out are the ideas -- the characters are memorable, yes, but it seems more like a novel of ideas than of plot or character, ideas about identity and history and time.

Perhaps ultimately my problem with the book is that I associate it too closely with grad school and the academic study of postmodernism, and I find myself irritated by a book that seems written mostly in service of the ideas. But perhaps this is doing the book an injustice ...

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by Stefanie on Sat Jan 31, 2009 10:24 pm

Dorothy, I am glad you like the forum Smile

I think you are right, the book is a novel of ideas and sometimes the characters and scenes are more in service to the ideas than to the integrity of the story or character. That was one of the things that sort of grated. I can see how you could associate this with grad school. It seems like it could be used as a sort of basic and easily accessible introduction to a study of postmodernism. That doesn't make it bad, but perhaps it reveals Winterson is trying too hard to make everything work the way she wants it to.

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by dsimpson on Sun Feb 01, 2009 12:11 am

I really enjoyed this, but there was a lot going on and even someone as unschooled as me could see she was trying to make points on a variety of topics. Still, on a purely 'reading for pleasure' level, I thought it was fun and entertaining. Whenever a book is labelled experimental I get a little nervous. I'm afraid I just won't get it (silly, I know), but once I got into the story (such that it was) I had no problems with it. In a way I was glad I don't have an English Lit background, so I could just enjoy it (and then learn more in the discussion we have after). The only thing that made me a little uncomfortable was the religious violence and the fact that some male characters didn't fare very well in the story. Are all her books like this?

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by iliana on Sun Feb 01, 2009 12:56 am

Hello Everyone and what a lovely forum we have!

Litlove I really enjoyed your summary on the Slaves Blog... Actually I've really enjoyed what everyone has posted so far.

It's interesting because I feel like we each touched upon different things about this book which to me speaks volumes of what the author was able to accomplish in such a slim novel.

I liked the book - I didn't love it and am actually still not sure why. Perhaps because it is just so different than anything I've read in a long while. It's one of those books that really shakes you out of the norm.

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by biblio brat on Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:44 am

[dances for joy]

I wish I could say it is for the book, but actually it is because I finally remembered my logon name and password. Hey, its the small things folks! Very Happy

As for the book, I have not finished it yet. Unfortunately, I stayed true to form by procrastinating until the last minute and then my cat got sick with an upper respiratory infection. Anyone who has or has had cats knows how upsetting this can be. Crying or Very sad

However, I have gotten about half way, and am trying very hard to keep an open mind as this is not like any book I've ever read.

I am enjoying it, but find I'm slowed down, continually hampered in reading this just for the pleasure of it by my tendency to think there is a deeper meaning woven within the narrative.

I just wish I could let go of that part of myself that has to constantly interpret everything I read, and for some reason, this book makes me feel like there is so much more to what you see on the surface.

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by Susan P on Sun Feb 01, 2009 3:12 am

Count me as one who felt inadequate in interpreting the text. I particularly liked the metaphysical musings, grew tired of the fantastical, and wondered if I ought to be focusing more on gender and sexuality.

(Does anyone else see my name underneath Stefanie's post? )

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by iliana on Sun Feb 01, 2009 5:40 am

Biblio Brat - hope your cat is doing better! I understand what you mean about trying to find deeper meanings thorughout the book. I felt that way as well.... Anyway, hope you'll enjoy the rest of it.

Susan - I don't see your name but when I'm logged in I see my name under Stefanie's post. How strange.

I think I did pay a bit more attention to the gender issues in this novel as opposed to anything else. I think what did it for me was the story of the princesses and how the men fared in those tales... I guess I thought about it more because most fairy tales that I can remember it's always about a prince rescuing a woman and every lives happy ever after. In these stories the women seemed to be just fine regardless of what happened to the men.

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Sexing the Cherry

Post by adevotedreader on Sun Feb 01, 2009 9:33 am

I also find it hard to write about this book.

I enjoyed it, but as an interesting series of interlinked stories rather than a complete novel. The fantasy elements and humour were wonderful BUT I did find some of the supposedly profound insights into men, ecology etc wearisome. I was left feeling entertained but a bit bamboozled- what was the point of it all?

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by Rebecca H. on Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:26 pm

Danielle -- the other Winterson books I've read, with the exception of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (her first novel), are like this one, at least generally speaking. Certainly The Passion was like this one -- it was historical fiction, had fantastical elements, was idea-driven, etc. I can sometimes get nervous about experimental writing, but very often it's not difficult at all -- just different.

What's interesting to me is that if you state all the ideas Winterson is working with as statements, I'd agree with them all and be enthusiastically on board. I can buy the idea, for example, that our identity is shifting and uncertain and not pinned down to one form, or even one place and time, and that our experience of gender can be much more fluid and ambiguous than our culture would like it to be, and that our interpretations of history are just another form of fiction. But when these ideas are embodied in fiction, at least in this particular way, I balk. The tone can feel a little pious to me (which is interesting because Winterson was raised in a very strictly fundamentalist home and rebelled against that kind of piety).

I have to say, though, that in spite of my doubts about the book, the relationship between Dog-Woman and Jordan will probably stay with me for a while, as will everything about Dog-Woman herself. She's great.

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by Stefanie on Sun Feb 01, 2009 4:45 pm

Iliana, I liked the book a lot too but didn't love it either and have been trying to figure out why. I am currently thinking that it might be because the story gives the impression of being planned, that everything happened as Winterson wanted it to, there is no feeling of organic development.

I loved the humor provide by Dog Woman. She was so...large. I am going to have the image of the elephant sailing through the air in my head for awhile. I appreciated that she wasn't a big clown though, her love for Jordan made her human.

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by Litlove on Sun Feb 01, 2009 5:47 pm

I do like Jeanette Winterson, and I did enjoy the book, but I can quite see why it doesn't gel with everyone. I think Winterson is trying to do so much that the novel, despite its brevity, can feel lumpy, awkward, or pitted with holes. Nor do the characters develop as such - experience doesn't really change Jordan or the Dog Woman, because they are locked into their identities. Change in magic realism mostly takes place at the level of metamorphosis in the material world. Reality, as we know it, explodes into a parallel universe, precisely because the one we are in is too constrained to contain the new thought or emotion or concept. I think that's why magic realism works so well in countries that are politically in trouble - you can see why an alternative world is needed, and why it just isn't available. European magic realism tends to fall back on postmodernism as the basis of its playfulness, stretching the text's capacity to make sense. Winterson is trying to explode myths and concepts of gender that belong quite firmly to the eighties, I think, and that may well feel a little out of date now - things have moved fast in that area. I did feel that the sudden appearance of modern day Jordan and Dog Woman was an invention too far for me. Had Winterson stuck with the 17th century story it might have made for a fuller, more satisfying narrative. But hey, the book's the way it is.

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by Stefanie on Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:37 pm

One way of looking at the present day Jordan and Dog Woman is to see them as what is real and the 17th century story as what their imaginations created in order to "explode into a parrallel universe" as Litlove describes magic realism. The present day both were in certainly gave them reasons for wanting to escape. But I sort of like that it isn't clear what is real and what is not. I find the unmoored feel of the novel pleasurable, sort of like the butterflies you get in your stomach on a roller coaster.

I liked the little touch that Jordan's sections were headed by a pineapple and Dog Woman's by a banana.

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Re: Sexing The Cherry

Post by dsimpson on Sun Feb 01, 2009 6:52 pm

Stefanie--I liked the banana and pineapple sections, too!

Dorothy--I'm not sure I'd want to read all her work, but I do have a couple of other books by her and wouldn't mind giving them a try at some point. And I probably make far too fuss about experimental literature.

It would be interesting to know more about Winterson and find out why she chooses to write like this. I wonder who her inspirations are. I think it was Susan who mentioned/wondered about reading STC when she hadn't read any Angela Carter or Woolf's Orlando (I haven't either, with the exception of a few stories by Angela Carter, which I liked as well). Would I have gotten more out of the book if I had?

I'm a very visual person--I learn better by seeing and I love seeing what happens in a book in my mind (maybe why I read so slow as I'm acting it out in my mind), so it's interesting that she not only had such strong images but also so many ideas (which I guess I did less with).

I did find this:

http://www.jeanettewinterson.com/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=14

where she writes about her book. It looks like she's finished writing about the past.

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