Monday, February 20, 2012


So many times I wanted to say a pile of stuff… twenty pages in... a quarter of the way through, then half-way through… then three quarters -- but now I am done the book and I'm going to try and find the adequate words to express how much I've enjoyed reading Middlesex.
Who says Oprah© doesn't know how to choose a good one? Middlesex was one of her "picks" back in 2007.
What an amazing book.
I am reeling from how much I loved it.

I respect my Bookpuddle readers enough to know that a long and drawn out excursus of Middlesex is probably unnecessary -- most of you have already read the book. You know what it's about.
For those three or four other people, Middlesex is the epic, sweeping, multi-generational story of the [Greek] Stephanides family, and their journey from Mount Olympus to Detroit. Well, mostly it's Detroit, and onwards.
The book begins by kicking you square in the gonads with one of the most craziest [and multi-comma-colonized] first sentences I have ever encountered:
I was born twice: first as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
That is the narrator speaking -- the ever-interesting and erudite, Callie Stephanides.
Some people favor books written in first person. Others don't mind the third-person. In this narrator you have both, and an author that is an expert in alternating between the tenses like no one I have ever read before.
Jeffrey Eugenides [praise be His Name] starts by having Callie recount the incestuous history of her grandparents, in Greece. They migrate to America and…. no, wait. Now I am doing what I said was unnecessary. You've all read this book.
Let me fast-forward to my impressions of it.
>> The thing is perfect <<
It's perhaps the best book I have read in the past five years.
Callie is a hermaphrodite. Hey, the first sentence sort of gives that away, so I'm not spoiling anything here for the three or four of you.
But the important thing that this book addresses is that gender identity sometimes is neither biologically determined nor even conditionally or culturally determined.
It can remain a mystery. Callie was born with a body that was not quite… the norm.
Not only this, but the aberration was not immediately recognized. Callie was raised as a female. But this caused all manner of confusion, along the way. "Her" journey shows us that no matter what sort of identity issues we face, the only person that can truly know their own self is the one that lives under their own skin.
No one else is able [or should be able] to decide who you are.
And this is not saying the half of what the book does. Because Callie's own story, focused on in the latter half of the book, is but a periphery to the first half of the book. Ancestry, in other words, plays a major role in our specific, one-lived, life.
Callie only truly finds this out in the very final pages!
It's one of the most well-rounded, and I'm going to say it, flawlessly written books I have ever read.
To give it a five-star rating [out of a possible five] I would feel guilty of limiting myself to just one galaxy of twinkling lights in my own night sky. I want to give it a full Big Dipper, which is seven stars!
This is my first journey into Eugenides. I look forward to reading every single word this guy has ever written, or ever will.


1 comment:

Sam Sattler said...

I've read his three big novels and I think that Middlesex is the best of the three. The Virgin Suicides was the first I read and I had a hard time telling the sisters from each other...maybe that was one of his points, now that I think of it. The newest one had its momoment but something I can't quite put my finger on still annoys me about that one. Strange response, I know.