Monday, March 07, 2005

Sexing the Cherry

At Book Group tonight we discuss Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson.

It’s a book I like a lot and this is my second time of reading. The first time around was many years back and other than the lasting impression of the Dog Woman, the details had faded a little.

Parts of it are so heavy it could drag a reader down and some elements so light they lift you up.

Concepts of heavy and light are central to Sexing the Cherry, but they’re not the only topics explored and it’s perhaps in the confusion of competing themes and discussions that the book’s weakness lies.

Having read the book in a hurry, I don’t feel I’m done justice to what Winterson is trying to say about the nature (or otherwise) of time and the way matter is actually largely points of energy with space in between.

I do like what she seems to be trying to say in all this about competing notions being able to be held simultaneously; multiple truths, in tension.

In the Flat Earth Theory Winterson writes:

“The earth is round and flat at the same time. This is obvious. That it is round appears indisputable; that it is flat is our common experience, also indisputable.”

Her theory goes on to consider how maps are magic:

“In the bottom corner are whales; at the top, cormorants carrying pop-eyed fish. In between is a subjective account of the lie of the land. Rough shapes of countries that may or may not exist, broken red lines marking paths that are at best hazardous, at worst already gone.

“A map can tell me how to find a place I have not seen but have often imagined. When I get there, following the map faithfully, the place is not the place of my imagination. Maps, growing ever more real, are much less true.

“And now, swarming over the earth with our tiny insect bodies and building houses, it seems that all the journeys are done. Not so. Fold up the maps and put away the globe. If someone else had charted it, let them. Start another drawing with whales at the bottom and cormorants at the top, and in between identify, if you can, the places you have not found yet on those other maps, the connections obvious only to you. Round and flat, only very little has been discovered"

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