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From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) Cherry Jubilee
Date: Thu, 16 Jul 1998 00:06:39 

Gene Wolfe's "Cherry Jubilee" might be read as a simple Agatha
Christie-like whodunit set aboard a spaceship traveling to Mars, but like
all of Wolfe's stories set in space (perhaps because both heaven and space
are traditionally thought of as being skyward), it has a strong religious
subtext. It's also of a piece with THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS in its
thematic approach to cloning.

Cherry Houdini is the clone of escape artist Merry Houdini. Merry (as in
Xmas) represents one half of Mary, Christ's mother, while "Cherry" (a
popular euphemism for virgin) represents the other half. Cherry also
represents the immaculately-conceived Christ child; only as we so often see
in stories by Wolfe such provenance--because it seeks to emulate, if not
usurp, God--is unholy. Witness Number Five's association with the
Anti-Christ or the soldiers in "The HORARS of War."  Wolfe always links
these figures with perdition and in "Cherry Jubilee" this unholiness leads
to death of Merry/Mary by her own "daughter," who drives a knife into her
chest while her arms are spread crucifixion style. 

Also present in this perversion of the traditional Nativity/Crucifixion is
Smith, aka Smitty, an American spy who succeeds in bribing Cherry into
dating him--if she refuses he'll turn her in as Merry's killer (the Captain
of the ship has actually been blamed). Smitty, I warrant, is the evil
equivalent of Joseph the Carpenter, husband to Mary (both blacksmithing and
carpentry require skilled use of the hands). Smitty's further association
with blacksmithing aligns him with the fires of Hell--which Mars, the
soi-disant red planet, symbolically represents. And what better vehicle to
transport people to Hell than a rocketship owned by Godless Communists, the

Others present (and who in turn are each speculated upon as being the
killer by KGB agent Vera Oussenko) include Comrade Petrovsky and his wife
Anna, who, in addition to being based on Petrov and Anna Pavlova in
Tolstoy's ANNA KARENINA, may also be thought of as Peter, one of Christ's
apostles and the first pope, and Anne, mother of Mary (the same association
of Anne with cloning is seen, of course, in Fifth Head).

As for Captain Bogdanoff, I wonder if he's not based on film director Peter
Bogdanovich--another Peter with a Russian name. Bogdanovich, for what it's
worth, was romantically involved with 1980 Playmate of the Year Dorothy
Stratton (whom Cherry and Merry physically resemble). Stratton was
eventually killed by her estranged husband (which recapitulates the Jubilee
aspect of the story: i.e., the husband is taking back his "property").
Captain Bogdanoff has been sleeping with Merry in the story, and soon (if
he can get the Party to clear him of murder charges) may do so with Cherry,
since she's masquerading as Merry. Meanwhile, back here in the real world,
Peter Bogdanovich soon began dating the late Dorothy Stratton's younger
sister, who I'm sure bore at least a sororal resemblance (Bogdanovich may
have even married her--I'm not sure). So there are extended parallels.

Robert Borski

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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