Like the journeys concealing journeys Jordan wishes to record, the narratives contain narratives and the meditations meditations in Sexing the Cherry, and, in the tradition of all fables, their true meanings seem viscerally obvious while remaining literally elusive. In outline a kind of picaresque search for an idealized, heterosexual love, the novel ultimately questions the possibility of such a union and seems to posit instead self-realization as a rather melancholy bonding with a community of self-made, parentless individuals.

Nowhere in its many tales is there an example of a happy traditional marriage. It is as if by this time in human history it is already too late for men and women to be together. By the time Jordan finds Fortunata on her island, she is past hoping to belong to someone else; she has learned to dance alone, and she recounts for him the myth of Artemis as if to argue that this has always been the way for strong women. The stories of the Twelve Dancing Princesses reiterate this point. In this feminist revision of the traditional fairy tale, the princesses create their own happy endings by escaping marriage to live alone or with other women. Their tales read like a catalog of the ways in which men are unworthy; men are unloving, unfaithful, untrusting, unattractive, distracted, depressed, intolerant, and simply pale in comparison to the women with whom three of the princesses are in love. When the novel leaps to the late twentieth century, the strong female is still unmarried and alone, passionately involved in her own work, not hating men, just wishing they would try harder.

Against this emerging litany of bad male behavior, which includes the antics of Puritans Preacher Scroggs and Neighbour Firebrace, the god Orion, and the polluting captains of industry, stands the sweet, poetic soul of the male...

(The entire section is 758 words.)