Cart

Egy test, két lélek PDF, ePub eBook


Hot Best Seller
Title: Egy test, két lélek
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publisher: Published 2005 by Tericum (first published September 4th 2002)
ISBN: 9639633046
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

18739546-egy-test-k-t-l-lek.pdf

In order to read or download eBook, you need to create FREE account.
eBook available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle versions


reward
How to download?
FREE registration for 1 month TRIAL Account.
DOWNLOAD as many books as you like (Personal use).
CANCEL the membership at ANY TIME if not satisfied.
Join Over 150.000 Happy Readers.


„Láttam rajta, hogy tudja. Tudja, mi vagyok, ahogy hirtelen én magam is rájöttem, mi vagyok, hogy nem lány vagyok, hanem valami a lány és a fiú közt.” Mi történik akkor, ha egyetlen családi örökségként egy hibás gén rejtőzik bennünk? Egy gén, amely elindul Kis-Ázsia ligeteiből, átkel a nyugodt Atlanti-óceánon és a háborgó XX. századon, majd megérkezik a hatalmas Amerika ko „Láttam rajta, hogy tudja. Tudja, mi vagyok, ahogy hirtelen én magam is rájöttem, mi vagyok, hogy nem lány vagyok, hanem valami a lány és a fiú közt.” Mi történik akkor, ha egyetlen családi örökségként egy hibás gén rejtőzik bennünk? Egy gén, amely elindul Kis-Ázsia ligeteiből, átkel a nyugodt Atlanti-óceánon és a háborgó XX. századon, majd megérkezik a hatalmas Amerika kohóiba, s végül a század epilógusának színpadára, az eggyé osztott Berlinbe. Egy gén, amely átszörfölt az évszázadon, miközben ott bújócskázik az ember legbensejében, felforgat és helyre tesz, kalanddá varázsol és elsimít, titkosít és elmagyaráz… mindent? Pikareszk krónika és családregény, a század gyermekének vallomása, anekdotafüzér és kíméletlen önanalízis – ezeknek összessége az, amit most a kezében tart az olvasó. Jeffrey Eugenides (ejtsd: dzsefri judzsinidis) Detroitban (USA) született 1960-ban, görög származású szülők harmadik fiaként. Első regénye, a Virgin Suicides (Ártatlan öngyilkosságok), 1993-ban jelent meg, s azóta 15 nyelvre fordították le, mozifilm is készült belőle. Az Egy test, két lélek 2003-ban Pulitzer-díjat kapott, és több mint egy évig szerepelt az amerikai és európai toplistákon. A szerző jelenleg Berlinben él a feleségével és kislányával

30 review for Egy test, két lélek

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trina

    I got off the bus from Bumbershoot around 1 AM, exhausted. Convinced that even the cars speeding past my window couldn’t keep me from this night’s rest, I opened the door to a stench of exceptional vileness. Not a dead stench, or a spoiled food stench. This was the stench of sewage. From a spot in the center of the living room I surveyed the apartment and discovered the source: the commode and the area around it were covered in yuck. I dialed up the landlord. The exchange went something like thi I got off the bus from Bumbershoot around 1 AM, exhausted. Convinced that even the cars speeding past my window couldn’t keep me from this night’s rest, I opened the door to a stench of exceptional vileness. Not a dead stench, or a spoiled food stench. This was the stench of sewage. From a spot in the center of the living room I surveyed the apartment and discovered the source: the commode and the area around it were covered in yuck. I dialed up the landlord. The exchange went something like this: “There’s shit on my floor.” Why mince words? “What do you want me to do about it?” “I want you to fix my toilet, so there won’t be shit on my floor.” “Have you tried a plunger?” “What do you think?” “And that didn’t work?” After 20 minutes of this verbal badminton, I realized the man wasn’t going to get out of bed without a signed act of congress. He told me there was an all night Denny’s down the street should I need a toilet during the night. So it was that at 2 AM, after multiple rounds of cleaning and yakking, I found myself seated in the kitchen on a kibble-filled bucket, a can of beer in one hand and Middlesex in the other. “There was a place halfway between consciousness and unconsciousness where Tessie did her best thinking.” I’d had two weeks to kill awaiting the arrival of all my worldly possessions. Plenty of time to determine that the kibble bucket was ergonomically preferable to the floor or my sleeping bag. With my front door situated not five feet from a four-lane road and one block from a strip bar whose patrons seemed to enjoy loitering in front of my building, the noise was like steel wool on my nerves, which were already shot from a marathon cross country drive with three cats, a dog, and a friend who was hitching a ride to her father’s funeral in St. Louis all crammed into my car. With no job, no friends, no furniture and now, apparently, no plumbing, this move was beginning to look like a profound error in judgment. The story of a 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodite proved a likely escape. “When you travel like I did, vague about destination and with an open-ended itinerary, a holy-seeming openness takes over your character.” I’d only brought one book on my trip west. Considerable thought went into the choice—it had to be an author with a proven ability to hold my interest. It had to be long enough to cover the duration of the journey. And it would need to stand up to multiple readings in the event of the delay of the moving truck or my inability to obtain a library card. As a creative writing major, I’d read The Virgin Suicides and marveled at the rotating first person narrative, the subtlety of the prose, and the fine edge between humor and poignance. Middlesex seemed a safe bet. The book was my constant companion. After a day of fruitless job interviews, I could go home to Callie Stephanides and her family, safe in the knowledge that there were over 200 pages to go before I’d need to find a new distraction. But the new distraction had already found me. I hadn’t written anything longer than a grocery list in 8 years. With all the time in the world and a good book as your muse, aspirations can get pretty lofty. “Even back then, the Great Books were working on me, silently urging me to pursue the most futile human dream of all, the dream of writing a book worthy of joining their number…” I won’t say that Middlesex turned me into a writer or anything lofty like that. The first time I saw Singin’ in the Rain, I nearly concussed myself trying run up a wall. When I reached the last word, I closed the book. Waited five minutes. Began again: “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.”

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Don't judge a book by its cover. I'd seen this book on the shelves of a number of friends and in the arms of a number of travelers, so I decided to pick it up. The title, "Middlesex", suggested English countryside to me. On the cover was what looked like a steamship, and a quote on the back began "Part Tristram Shanty, part-Ishmael..." So I came to the foolish conclusion that this was some 19th century English seafaring novel. (Typical.) I couldn't have been more wrong. Middlesex is the story of a Don't judge a book by its cover. I'd seen this book on the shelves of a number of friends and in the arms of a number of travelers, so I decided to pick it up. The title, "Middlesex", suggested English countryside to me. On the cover was what looked like a steamship, and a quote on the back began "Part Tristram Shanty, part-Ishmael..." So I came to the foolish conclusion that this was some 19th century English seafaring novel. (Typical.) I couldn't have been more wrong. Middlesex is the story of a hermaphrodite who grew up as Calliope but discovered in her adolescence that she is actually more Cal than Calliope. More specifically, Middlesex (the title takes on a new meaning now) is the story of three generations of a Greek family and the incestuous genetic and social history that enables the existence of Cal, who narrates the story. The novel is epic. It spans nearly a century and traces the Stephanides family from battle-torn Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, across an Atlantic voyage, from the street corners of Detroit, through World War II, and out to the suburban haven of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. The novel incorporates details upon details from all different spheres of life, dropping name brands from different time periods and regions and incorporating specialized jargon from a wide range of fields--Jeffrey Eugenides must have done an immense, immense amount of research during the writing process. And the scope is as broad as the focus is often narrow. Over the course of 20th century, the Stephanides family responds to and participates in political, social, and cultural movements, and through them, we feel not only the sweep of a small Greek enclave, but also the sweep of a nation's growth as it engages Prohibition, World War II, the idealism of the 50s, the revolutions of the 60s and 70s, and more. The story is as much about the conflicts within a country as it is about a family trying to face its secrets, past and present. Through it all, Cal, as a narrator, is clever and endearing. A story about a hermaphrodite sounds unfamiliar to most at first, and there are moments in the novel when Cal faces the visceral or fearful reactions that arise in those prone to fear. But, from page one, Eugenides clears the air, setting us on a fresh foundation, and we discover a character who faces familiar childhood and adolescent trials and tribulations--we discover the humanity of a character one might otherwise find alienated elsewhere. Do I recommend it? Yes. It's a good tale for the modern age. Would I teach it? Not likely. At 527 pages, it's just too long. Lasting impression? Epic. I'll remember it for the incredible depth and breadth of knowledge it demonstrates. This novel impresses upon me the amount of research that an author must do to prepare for a serious work.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Alright, it’s high time I review this hermaphroditic little masterpiece. Being a pseudo-biochemist (pseudo in the sense that I only pretend to be a biochemist, whereas in reality I write scientific development reports and other documents that no one will ever read but which I’ve convinced myself are just as fulfilling as doing real science), I find the premise of this novel to be incredibly interesting. 5α-Reductase deficiency is an autosomal recessive disorder; autosomal meaning that the gene cod Alright, it’s high time I review this hermaphroditic little masterpiece. Being a pseudo-biochemist (pseudo in the sense that I only pretend to be a biochemist, whereas in reality I write scientific development reports and other documents that no one will ever read but which I’ve convinced myself are just as fulfilling as doing real science), I find the premise of this novel to be incredibly interesting. 5α-Reductase deficiency is an autosomal recessive disorder; autosomal meaning that the gene coding for 5α-Reductase is not located on a sex chromosome (X or Y), and recessive meaning that one would need two copies of a mutated form of the gene in order to express the disease trait. Since we as a biological species inherit one copy of every gene from each of our parents, it would not be enough to have only one mutated form of this gene because a single “good” copy is all that’s required for proper function. Because of this, the proper-functioning gene is considered to be completely dominant over the mutated form in terms of phenotypic expression. Here is a Punnett square showing basic concepts of Mendelian genetics: Each form of the gene is called an allele: “B” represents the dominant allele, or the healthy gene form; “b” represents the recessive allele. If both parents are phenotypically “normal,” the only way they would be able to have any offspring with this disease is if they were both carriers, meaning they each have one dominant and one recessive allele. In this way, they are said to be heterozygous for this trait, the genotype of which is represented as “Bb.” For any child they conceive, there would exist a 25% chance of that child inheriting two recessive alleles. This is referred to as being homozygous recessive, the genotype of which is represented as “bb.” Only homozygous recessive children will express the disease. Since the protagonist of this novel has unluckily inherited both recessive alleles, one from each of his parents, he ends up with the disorder. So what is this disorder, exactly? The 5α-Reductase gene codes for an enzyme which converts testosterone into a potent sex steroid called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which plays a fundamental role in the formation of the male sex organs. Since disease subjects do not have the ability to convert testosterone into DHT, they end up with too much testosterone and not enough DHT, which in some cases leads to the formation of ambiguous genitalia. These ambiguous genitalia form one of the many, but probably the most interesting, subjects of the novel. The author begins by tracing the history of these recessive alleles back through the family lineage before elegantly leading us to the budding of the protagonist’s crocus: his ambiguous little penis stub (yes, you should click there; and yes, you should see that movie). Perhaps not surprisingly, the historical tracing reveals some ancestral inbreeding, as well. And since the protagonist is still genotypically male (even though he doesn’t know it and neither do his parents or anybody else), the real fun begins when he enters puberty. When I met with my book club to talk about this fantastic novel, a few pronoun choices were used for describing the protagonist: he, she, he-she-it, etc. But all joking aside, the protagonist is male. He is male by genotypic definition (he has two healthy sex chromosomes, one of which is a Y), and he sexually identifies himself as male which is consistent with other real-life sufferers of 5α-Reductase deficiency.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    Exactly the flawless masterpiece you've heard it is. I've read hundreds of novels in my day, & this is in the top 3 (On equal shelf with "A Confederacy of Dunces" and "Blonde." (My own personal trifecta perfecta: The THE the best novels of ALL TIME!)) I will never stop lauding this book. Unbelievable, mythic; the stuff from the Gods to anyone with an eye & brain to receive from the way-up up up heights. This is LIFE AFFIRMING literature that's meant to be treasured for the rest of your li Exactly the flawless masterpiece you've heard it is. I've read hundreds of novels in my day, & this is in the top 3 (On equal shelf with "A Confederacy of Dunces" and "Blonde." (My own personal trifecta perfecta: The THE the best novels of ALL TIME!)) I will never stop lauding this book. Unbelievable, mythic; the stuff from the Gods to anyone with an eye & brain to receive from the way-up up up heights. This is LIFE AFFIRMING literature that's meant to be treasured for the rest of your life. The main character will stay with you until the day you die...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This would have been better as an NPR story or an episode of "This American Life" than a novel. Or maybe if someone other than Eugenides had written it. An interesting idea, and a few engrossing sex scenes (I like the "crocus" and the peep-tank, and the whole long flirtation with The Object drew me in completely), and a nice two pages toward the end when Julie accepts Cal for what he is. But the prose was awful: frequent maneuvers like "And me? That's simple. I was . . . " are really unacceptabl This would have been better as an NPR story or an episode of "This American Life" than a novel. Or maybe if someone other than Eugenides had written it. An interesting idea, and a few engrossing sex scenes (I like the "crocus" and the peep-tank, and the whole long flirtation with The Object drew me in completely), and a nice two pages toward the end when Julie accepts Cal for what he is. But the prose was awful: frequent maneuvers like "And me? That's simple. I was . . . " are really unacceptable. And "Sing, Muse, of Greek ladies and their battle against unsightly hair!" is about as funny as poop. Except for the incest, the long family-history plot was like a mashup of immigrant dramas from cable TV: Greek family barely escapes home country to make it to the United States, where they wander through 20th century history in a dull procession of unmotivated Gumpy forays into Wikipedia that have no effect whatsoever on their character development. (Now we'll shove these characters through Prohibition! mass production! the Detroit race riots! The partition of Cyprus! San Francisco hippies! the tragedy of Michael Dukakis's helmet moment! and . . . the founding of the Nation of Islam!) The incest part of the story was good in the beginning -- the early love scenes between the grandparents are wonderful -- and then impressively tedious (Desdemona feels guilt! and then . . . she feels guilt again!). The metaphors are embarassingly bad: Cal lives on a street named Middlesex, and eventually finds reconciliation of the two sides of himself in Berlin after reunification. Why not have Desdemona live on "I Feel Guilty For Sleeping With My Brother Boulevard"? Cal remains completely undefined as a character, except in terms of his understandably tough time figuring out his own identity; "confused" isn't much of a character. Everyone else in the book fails to exist at all. Jimmy Zizmo turns out to be the founder of the Nation of Islam? Eugenides says self-importantly that "you've probably guessed" that -- no! Not only did I not guess it, it doesn't make any sense, logical or emotional, and it's completely uninteresting. Why not have him turn out to be Richard Nixon? Uncle Mike turns out to be a psychopath who extorts his own family? Why? Who cares? Cal's lack of voice or character is the worst thing: if your book aims to show readers what it's like inside the world of an intersex person, you should show us that world from the inside in a way that makes sense, or at least a way that's interesting. Cal has no voice, no face, no identity. What voice there is is completely inconsistent with his behavior -- the current Cal is reticent, shy, depressed, lonely, and retiring; our narrator is open, boisterous, discursive, ironic, omniscient for no particular reason, and irritatingly jokey. And the book no more has ideas about sexuality than it does about Cal's character. As one reviewer said, the most disappointing thing about the book is it ends up reinforcing stereotyped, dumb ideas about gender (like "Breasts have the same effect on me as on anyone with my testosterone level" -- as if there were no gays). Callie's pursuit of The Object doesn't make her question categories, it just convinces her she's a boy. There is no middle sex here; there's no middle ground; it's more gawking than Tiresias-like insight.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is a surprising and wonderfully written story about the life of Calliope/Cal Stephanopolis who in the opening lines "was born twice: first, as a baby girl...and then again as a teenage boy." The subject of hermaphroditism or intersexuality is addressed throughout as the book as a running theme as the cinématographique narrator Cal looks back at his childhood as Calliope and explains his complex incestuous family history from the origins of her grandparents as Greek Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is a surprising and wonderfully written story about the life of Calliope/Cal Stephanopolis who in the opening lines "was born twice: first, as a baby girl...and then again as a teenage boy." The subject of hermaphroditism or intersexuality is addressed throughout as the book as a running theme as the cinématographique narrator Cal looks back at his childhood as Calliope and explains his complex incestuous family history from the origins of her grandparents as Greeks fleeing Smyrna as the Turks invade to Detroit from the 20s up to the 70s. The narrative time shifts between his life as a 41 year old man Cal to this running family history written in a witty, humorous style which I found fun and engaging. The text ingeniously woven together from history and science with many recurrent themes (silkworms, Greek orthodox beliefs and practices, guilt and redemption, etc). I couldn't put this book down. This is the only Eugenides book I have read but it will definitely check out his other books. An interesting sidenote: trying to explain the book "daddy is reading" to my 7yo daughter and my 10yo son, I was able to painlessly explain why brothers and sisters cannot get married (a very common kid's question) and even reproductive functions in a painless and intuitive way: since Callie has organs of both sexes but the penis ("zizi" in kid's French) is inside her vagina ("zezette") she cannot have babies and will never menstruate ("clean the house where the baby can live"). She also has too many male hormones to develop breasts which happens about the same time or just before menstruation. This deformation was the improbable result of the union of a brother and sister two generations back. Nature wants to ensure a varied gene pool and thus it is better to seek love outside one's own family. This explanation seemed to satisfy both of them :) UPDATE: Great recent article at good housekeeping.com: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cassy

    This isn’t so much a review as an embarrassing story. I gave the book four stars for a reason. The writing is beautiful. I would recommend it. Now onwards to my shame. So Brooke and I were standing in line to meet Eugenides. Please understand it was a really long line after a similarly long day at work. We passed the time chitchatting about this and that at our workplace and life in general. By the time the organizer offered post-its* to our segment of the line, we were getting silly and joked ab This isn’t so much a review as an embarrassing story. I gave the book four stars for a reason. The writing is beautiful. I would recommend it. Now onwards to my shame. So Brooke and I were standing in line to meet Eugenides. Please understand it was a really long line after a similarly long day at work. We passed the time chitchatting about this and that at our workplace and life in general. By the time the organizer offered post-its* to our segment of the line, we were getting silly and joked about all the crazy names and titles you could request. Instead of sticking to your name, you could put down “Boo-Bear” or “Sunshine Sally”. Just imagine: you could have an autographed book with some outrageous inscription like “To the best unicorn, Jeffrey Eugenides”. Throughout the course of the night, I had been trying to persuade Brooke to visit a bookstore I thought she would enjoy. She was reluctant for unknown reasons. Under the influence of a bizarre mixture of exasperation, exhaustion, and silliness, I proposed a bet. I had already written my plain-ole name on the post-it. If she promised to accompany me to an event at the bookstore, I would add “baby” under my name. She quickly agreed. As we waited thereafter, I began to second guess the stunt. But before I could request a new post-it, the line betrayed me. While it had moved at a glacial pace initially, now it swept me forward. When I handed Eugenides my book, he stared at the post-it for a second and then looked up at us. He asked, “Who is Cassy Baby? Is that you?” I was mortified. Utterly mortified. I tried to quickly explain the promised bookstore visit, but I think in actuality I just pointed at Brooke and mumbled something like, “She made me.” Looking back, the whole episode could be construed as a power struggle. Could a literary nobody force a Pulitzer Prize winner to write something stupid? If he refused, he might seem like a jerk. His best option was probably to play along and, bless his heart, he did. Perhaps he thought it was amusing. I doubt it. So, here it is: [image error] Who was the real winner out of this mess? Brooke. Allow me to list the ways. (1) She was witness to my shame. (2) She did visit the bookstore – although she ditched for me the promised event and went on her own later. (3) As I suspected she would, she became a fan of said bookstore. (4) And this is the cherry on the top: Eugenides inscribed her book to “Brooke Baby”. ------------- *If you want your book personalized, the host will generally hand out post-its. You write your name on the post-it and place it on the title page where the author will sign. This way the author doesn’t struggle to spell your name correctly.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    This is a book about transition. Transition from child to adult to parent and grandparent. From native to immigrant. From brother and sister to husband and wife. From rural dweller to urbanite. From modest affluence to poverty and up again. From loving language to losing the power of speech. From geek to hippie. From war through peace to civil unrest. From belief to unbelief. From rescued to rescuer. From moral probity to corruption and crime. Oh, and one character transitions from female to male. The last This is a book about transition. Transition from child to adult to parent and grandparent. From native to immigrant. From brother and sister to husband and wife. From rural dweller to urbanite. From modest affluence to poverty and up again. From loving language to losing the power of speech. From geek to hippie. From war through peace to civil unrest. From belief to unbelief. From rescued to rescuer. From moral probity to corruption and crime. Oh, and one character transitions from female to male. The last of those is the book's USP, but don't let that fool you: it's no more limited to those with niche interests in intersex conditions than it's limited to those of Greek heritage. It is an unusual story, but with universal themes, told by a wonderfully engaging, lyrical, narrator. Few of us fit neatly into binary categories. We all go through many transitions in our lives; the final one is "only another kind of emigration". This book speaks to everyone, not just those like Cal's family who "have always had a knack for self-transformation". Plot The family originally raised silkworms, so metamorphosis and long threads are at the heart of their lives as well as the story. No fear of spoilers: the key aspects are summarised in the opening paragraphs, starting with: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl... and then again, as a teenage boy." The rest of the book brings two strands together: Cal's grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona, fleeing the Turks in 1922 as siblings, and arriving in the US as husband and wife, and how that meant Cal ended up with a recessive intersex condition, and is now telling his story. He sometimes addresses the reader directly (shout outs to deus ex machina, Checkov's gun etc). In many respects, it is a conventional sweeping family drama, of the ups and downs of the American Dream: building (and rebuilding) businesses against the backdrop of the Vietnam war and civil rights movement, but with an extra dose of teen angst about puberty (or lack thereof). However, the final few chapters strike an oddly different tone. Octopussy's Garden is partly to hammer home the parallels with Greek mythology (and echo a passage in the middle where Cal muses on the transformations of puberty, using sea creatures as an analogy), but the final intrigue and chase felt very off-key, compared with the rest of the book. There is also "an innate female circularity to the story", perhaps because Greeks believe "that to be happy you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward you have to come back to where you began." This is compounded by some reversal (like Amis's execrable "Time's Arrow"): in old age, Lefty's mind and memories go into reverse, and in an early section, Cal describes his birth like a film on rewind. Destiny: The Known and Unknown Cal is omniscient, not just when he remembers things he wouldn't be able to recall (including being a foetus), but also in terms of how much he knows about other people's inner thoughts and private actions. On a few occasions, it feels a little weird (the erotic significance of the grandmother's corset, for instance), but it's how he makes the more extraordinary aspects of the plot credible: he has already conjured believable characters the reader cares about. Nevertheless, the lack of knowledge often displayed is staggering - yet just about plausible. The most significant examples are that Desdemona and Lefty get away with their relationship, and that no one realises Calliope (as he originally is) is not a girl. There are others, though, such as teenage fumblings and more, at which point Cal "clearly understood that I wasn't a girl but something in between", though the boy involved did not. Some of the ignorance is cultivated. When Desdemona and Lefty fake a courtship on the boat, "Lefty never discouraged any speculation. He seized the opportunity of transatlantic travel to reinvent himself... Aware that whatever happened now would become the truth... Playing out this imaginary flirtation... they began to believe it... it wasn't other travellers they were trying to convince; it was themselves." Forgetting also matters: "Everything about Middlesex [the house] spoke of forgetting and everything about Desdemona made plain the inescapability of forgetting." There are echoes of Greek mythology throughout, which gives a certain weight and tone to how Cal tells it. For instance, "An infinite number of possible selves crowded the threshold" as Cal's parents prepare to conceive him, and it's no coincidence that his childhood church was the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, and that they later move to Middlesex Boulevard. It also creates an additional layer of foreshadowing. Cal's father is conceived after his parents see a play about a hybrid monster, and at a significant medical appointment about Cal, Milton (Cal's father) wears traditional Tragedy and Comedy masks as cufflinks: which way will it go? Sex Sexual identity is key. Desdemona is obsessed with predicting the sex of unborn children, and Cal himself was only conceived because his parents really wanted a girl (they already had a son) and believed they had found a way to improve the odds of that. He was born at the women's hospital and "It was all around me from the beginning, the weight of female suffering, with its biblical justification and vanishing acts." Nothing unusual was noticed by the elderly doctor, so "Five minutes old, and already the themes of my life - chance and sex - announced themselves." There is relatively little about Cal's adaptation to living as a man (though there is a sweet sideline in learning how to date women, the perils of what to tell them when etc). Most of the story leads up to that realization: the agonies of not developing when her friends do, then growing oddly tall and awkward, struggling with infatuation with girls etc. However, there are glimpses of the adult issues: "I'm not androgynous... when Calliope surfaces, she does so like a childhood speech impediment... It's a little like being possessed. Callie rises up inside me, wearing my skin like a loose robe... But then, just as suddenly, she is leaving, shrinking and melting away inside me". Cal is currently in Berlin and "This once-divided city reminds me of myself." A childhood trip to Cyprus was cancelled by annexation "Cyprus was being cut in half... like all the other places in the world that were no longer one thing or the other." It is incest that causes Cal's condition, but there is no rancour in the telling of the story, perhaps because it's not just Desdemona and Lefty. Other cousins married each other (Cal's parents are cousins, conceived on the same day, who grew up together), and even some couples who are not related by blood have a rather incestuous aspect: a much older husband who treats his wife - in some ways - like a daughter; an engaged couple who split, only for the spurned man to marry the sister of her new boyfriend; one sibling suggesting another experiment with masturbation; a first sexual encounter with a best friend's brother, followed by intimacy with the friend. But none of it's salacious. A quiet irony is that the English test at Ellis Island is about eunuchs. Desdeomona Cal's grandmother is central to the book. In many ways they have very contrasting lives, but there are surprising parallels too. After an initial coldness, there is a special bond between them: Desdemona disapproved of Milton and Tessie marrying, of trying to choose their sex of the baby, and was then upset when her prediction of a boy was wrong. However, she was quickly won over, at which point, Cal "gave Desdemona back her original sin". She had been an innocent village girl, surprised by developments of her own body as well as her heart (and that of her brother). Her "body was a constant embarrassment to her. It was always announcing itself in ways she didn't want to sanction...[her] body was still a stranger to its owner", which applies just as much to Cal. Similarly, just as Desdemona had to reinvent herself as wife instead of sister, and forge an identity in a new country, Callie becomes Cal, "Like a stroke victim [as Lefty was], I was having to learn all the most simple skills" and "I was like an immigrant" to the world of men. Diagnosis and Treatment: What Determines Gender? "From my birth when they went undetected, to my baptism where they upstaged the priest, to my troubled adolescence when they didn't do much of anything and then did everything at once, my genitals have been the most significant thing that ever happened to me." Gender is not always clearcut, "determined by a variety of influences: chromosomal sex; gonadal sex; hormones; internal genital structures; external genitals; and, most important, the sex of rearing." The last is the belief of the doctor, who saw it as "like a native tongue... imprinted in the brain during childhood." Cal, raised as a girl, proves otherwise. Cal's father looks to medicine to "fix" her problem, and both parents react differently: "Milton heard the words that were there. He heard 'treatment' and 'effective'. Tessie, on the other hand, heard the words that weren't there. The doctor hadn't said my name... He hadn't said 'daughter' either. He didn't use any pronouns." Cal is left "poised between the print of genetics and the White Out of surgery." But "we're all made up of many parts." Controversy: Appropriateness and Sensitivity Some question Eugenides' right to write a book like this. He is Greek-American, but does not have any intersex condition and is not a trans person. Furthermore, Cal (and his doctors) uses the term "hermaphrodite", which many find offensive when applied to people. As a straight cis woman, with no medical background, I guess I am not really in a position to defend against such criticisms. Nevertheless, I think those who actually read it would find it hard to take offence at the sensitive and insightful way this aspect is portrayed. As for the H word, I expect it's what doctors in the 1960s would have used and there are still places where 5-Alpha-Reductase Deficiency is described in such terms. Eugenides has said: "The story of Hermaphroditus, the beautiful son of Hermes and Aphrodite, is one I retell, in modern guise, in two different sections of the book." and "I'm referring not to a person or a group of people but to a literary character." (From http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/M...) For me, one of the bigger issues is the focus of mid-teen Cal's desires, "The Obscure Object". Calling a girl or woman an object can't be good, can it? Yet it doesn't come across as objectifying in the usual sense. It's more a way of preserving anonymity and distance, reflecting her special, idolised, position in Cal's life. More troubling is the the issue of consent. (view spoiler)[If one partner is apparently asleep but enjoying things, and the pattern is repeated over many nights, is that OK? As a plain question, I'd say not, but the way it's described, I'm inclined to sit firmly on the fence. Another tricky aspect is the exploitation (or not) of sex workers; even if it's dressed up as empowerment, I'm not convinced it is. (hide spoiler)] Chapter Eleven Cal's brother is only ever referred to as Chapter Eleven (a US statute relating to business bankruptcy); we never learn his real name. This is different from some other characters who are referred to by a nickname, but whose real names are stated. Quotes * "His shortness had a charitable aspect to it." * "A sick person imprisoned in a healthy body." * "She'd spend a decade in bed trying with vitality to die." * "You used to be able to tell a person's nationality by their face. Immigration ended that. next... footwear. Globalization ended that." * "Sparks fly across the city, inseminating every place they land with a germ of fire." * "Motorcars parked like giant beetles... smokestacks rose everywhere, cannons bombarding the atmosphere... stacks in regimental rows or all alone puffing meditatively away." * The Ford factory, "that controlled Vesuvius of chutes, tubes, ladders, catwalks, fire, and smoke known, like a plague or a monarch, only by a color: 'The Rouge'." * African-American area of Detroit in the 50s, "The gloom of front porches and apartments without electricity seeped out into the streets and the thundercloud of poverty... directed attention... toward... forlorn, shadowless objects." * Joining the Nation of Islam, "Women exchange the maids' uniforms of subservience for the white chadors of emancipation." * "A group of boys whose main bond was their unpopularity." * "There is no evidence against genetic determinism more persuasive than the children of the rich." * "In the cedar swamp, verticality wasn't an essential property of trees... everywhere the grey skeletons of trees." * Tranquillizers provide "a kind of viewing platform from which she could observe her anxiety." * "San Francisco, that cold, identity-cleansing mist." Apparently German is bad for conversation because the verb is at the end of the sentence, which means you can't interrupt (wouldn't that make it good?)! ............................................. Review from 2008 Pulitzer prize winning story of a Greek-American hermaphrodite! Evokes sympathy for the most unlikely things (incest) and plausibly documents Callie/Cal's coming to terms with growing up and then discovering her/his true nature. When telling the family history, Cal sometimes uses the first person, and sometimes her/his name at the time, paralleling her/his feelings of empathy or detachment. Although close to her/his family in some ways, s/he more often refers to them by name (Milton, Tessie) than relationship (father, mother). Takes a slightly unexpected turn towards the end.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    "Some people inherit houses; others paintings or highly insured violin bows. Still others get a Japanese tansu or a famous name. I got a recessive gene on my fifth chromosome and some very rare family jewels indeed." Let me say first that Jeffrey Eugenides is an extraordinary storyteller! Why I’ve waited so long to read one of his books is beyond me. Middlesex is an epic multi-generational saga of a Greek family with one of the most engaging narrative voices I’ve come across in quite some time. I "Some people inherit houses; others paintings or highly insured violin bows. Still others get a Japanese tansu or a famous name. I got a recessive gene on my fifth chromosome and some very rare family jewels indeed." Let me say first that Jeffrey Eugenides is an extraordinary storyteller! Why I’ve waited so long to read one of his books is beyond me. Middlesex is an epic multi-generational saga of a Greek family with one of the most engaging narrative voices I’ve come across in quite some time. It’s also the story of said narrator, Cal, and what might be considered a rather unconventional topic – that of hermaphroditism. "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." I have to admit that I picked this book up ages ago and set it aside. At the time I thought there was no way I could establish any kind of connection to the main character given the fact I had never had any kind of exposure to persons with this condition. There is an incestuous element that made me run the other direction as well. Now of course I’ve matured a bit since that time and realize that there are a myriad of ways to connect to any human being. The skillful pen of Eugenides helped a bit too, of course. This time, I was hooked from the start and simply couldn’t help but be charmed by Cal. The author takes us into some places that are uncomfortable - those shadowy places that could get quite dark if handled differently. Instead we are taken there with a voice that is often humorous while still managing to be sensitive and respectful – an admirable accomplishment! I’m not going to go into any further detail about this book – there are thousands of other reviews and my goal is to catch up on mine before summer slips away. I’ve failed to mention that this book is also rich in historical detail, and I’m always a sucker for that. Eugenides manages to weave so much history throughout and he does so quite seamlessly. Motor City, the Detroit race riots, Asia Minor conflicts, immigration issues, and family dynamics are all explored. But Middlesex is much more than that. It’s also a drama about the human condition that is so compelling that you will feel an attachment to Cal even if you never thought it possible! If you can set aside any feelings of uneasiness and just allow yourself to get swept away with Cal’s story, then you are in for a real treat. A 5-star book that I highly recommend!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Arah-Lynda

    ex ovo omnia:  everything comes out of an egg. Yowsers, there are over twenty thousand reviews of this book on this site alone, so no, cannot say that I’ve read them all, but it does get me to thinking ……….. I enjoyed this book way more than I expected.  And yet my expectations were misinformed by assumptions, most of which were my own, not the least of which was about the title. Sometimes when reading I feel compelled to slow down, take my time.  Such was the case with this book.  It’s a marathon ex ovo omnia:  everything comes out of an egg. Yowsers, there are over twenty thousand reviews of this book on this site alone, so no, cannot say that I’ve read them all, but it does get me to thinking ……….. I enjoyed this book way more than I expected.  And yet my expectations were misinformed by assumptions, most of which were my own, not the least of which was about the title. Sometimes when reading I feel compelled to slow down, take my time.  Such was the case with this book.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint and I was fine with that. I felt comfortable with the pace and manner in which Eugenides chose to tell this story. This story affected me deeply. It is funny and tragic Rich and abundant Tender and expansive In fact I love what Andrew O’Hehir said: “A heart breaking tale of growing up awkward and lonely in 70’s suburbia.” It is as much a historic and social novel of Detroit as it is about immigration and assimilation on a much grander stage and it is narrated by one of the most complex, engaging and memorable characters I have ever encountered.  I will not soon forget you Cal. Some would say that this is an American story. And it is. It is also a very human one. Pssst book junkies I found this at one of my city's used bookstores in the downtown core. It is a beautiful hard cover, with a magnificent jacket. Love the cover design and, and , and, it is in pristine condition. Definitely leave laying about worthy!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

    Mr. Eugenides can do everything, or at least I am convinced of such after reading Middlesex. I passed on this book for a long time. I kept picking it up in bookstores and putting it down. I've seen quotes from it everywhere, all of which were beautiful, and kept hearing wonderful things about it from friends. To be perfectly honest, what kept me from picking it up in the subject: a hermaphrodite. I think of myself as someone with an open mind, but the thing is that I just wasn't sure if I'd be ab Mr. Eugenides can do everything, or at least I am convinced of such after reading Middlesex. I passed on this book for a long time. I kept picking it up in bookstores and putting it down. I've seen quotes from it everywhere, all of which were beautiful, and kept hearing wonderful things about it from friends. To be perfectly honest, what kept me from picking it up in the subject: a hermaphrodite. I think of myself as someone with an open mind, but the thing is that I just wasn't sure if I'd be able to relate to much in this story. I made a very foolish assumption, and I'm quite embarassed about it. Middlesex is a slow burner (my new favorite term). It begins with the story of Cal/Calliope's grandparents, which seems unnecessary in the beginning, but which makes more sense with each passing page. The story then passes on to the parents, then Cal. A couple pages in, Eugenides describes a rather gruesome scene, and this was my signal that this is a no-holds-barred kind of author. He goes there. (This isn't to say that the book is filled with gruesome moments, just that he's not afraid to use them when he must.) To address the smoking gun, so to speak, yes, the main character is a Hermaphrodite. Though the reader knows it throughout the book, the main character doesn't know until they're older. It seems incredulous, but Eugenides makes it work, and makes this believable. He was smart to do things this way, because I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Calliope to discover the truth. And, most likely, he keeps a lot more not-so-open minded readers this way. There's a very frank beauty about this book - he doesn't gloss over anything, but despite the many struggles of the three generations, he doesn't feel it necessary to make his reality very bleak, either. Even when the book is at its darkest, most depressing, you're filled with sadness, but also with hope. The other great thing about Middlesex, aside from its incredible cast of characters is how well it captures society in history - first in Detroit in the '20s (a more bleak picture than '20s of The Great Gatsby), then the '60s. The '20s are focused on the invention of the automobile - the people putting them together as opposed to the people driving them, and the impact that being part of an assembly line and big business had on people, and of course, prohibition. With the '60s, Eugenides tackles race so marvelously - the chapter about the Detroit riots is probably the best in the book, for all of the anxiety and imagery that he evokes. This book is really just as much about middle class America and family ties as it is about sexuality. Don't make the mistake that I made by continually passing on this book - read it!

  12. 4 out of 5

    F

    I like books with family stories but it was very dull at some parts. For me the start was really exciting with the grandparents. The when they got to America it dragged for me. Over abundance of information. Picked up towards the end again when it was more about Cal's discovery.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    "When I told my life story to Dr. Luce, the place where he invariably got interested was when I came to Clementine Stark. Luce didn't care about criminally smitten grandparents or silkworm boxes or serenading clarinets. To a certain extent, I understand. I even agree." I agree too. This quote comes from page 263 and is really where the story picks up and gets into the subject the book promises--Cal's life as a hermaphrodite. Honestly, while the first 263 pages were interesting and had some impor "When I told my life story to Dr. Luce, the place where he invariably got interested was when I came to Clementine Stark. Luce didn't care about criminally smitten grandparents or silkworm boxes or serenading clarinets. To a certain extent, I understand. I even agree." I agree too. This quote comes from page 263 and is really where the story picks up and gets into the subject the book promises--Cal's life as a hermaphrodite. Honestly, while the first 263 pages were interesting and had some important developing points, it could have been distilled a great deal. Eugenides is a great, fluid writer--very witty. But dang, he's wordy. I guess after reading several books by Cormac McCarthy I'm bound to get distracted by verbosity. I'm not saying I don't like long--my favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov--I just don't like all the superfluous words. Still, the book is compelling so far. I'm not as driven to read it as I think I should be, but I don't find myself putting it down after every paragraph to check my email either. UPDATE: I have finished the book. In the end, I felt like it didn't deliver. I see a lot of connections Eugendides is making about identity, but they didn't seem developed. In fact, there were many symbols throughout the book that were very clever but ultimately seemed to be only that--a device used to show cleverness and not to really further the plot. Another problem I had with the book was the fact that Eugenides tells too much about his characters and yet I still feel like it is underdeveloped. For example, he has great characters in mind and some great episodes to show how they feel, but then he simply runs through the story and then tells you how the character felt--I wanted to feel how the characters felt. I enjoyed two things about the book. First, the Forrest Gump-like trek through American history. There are really some fascinating episodes in this book. And Eugenides does an excellent job ellaborating on them. Sometimes I felt like he should have written an essay on American history rather than this novel. The second thing I enjoyed was Eugenides sly, clever writing. I know that above I said that some things seemed to be there just to showcase the author's wit, but some of those things were really clever and enjoyable. The writing kind of reminded me of Jim Carrey's acting: at moments it was brilliant, hysterical, and spot on; but at other moments it was just too much, needed to be toned down, better controlled. As I said, this book didn't deliver for me. I liked it because of its promise. The idea is fascinating. However, as talented as Mr. Eugenides is, a little more control would be nice.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    April 2012 Goddammit, Middlesex is beautiful. It's epic. And it's roughly 500 pages too short. That's right--too short. As a sweeping, three-generation epic novel that covers the lives of Calliope's grandparents, parents, and her own childhood before she became Cal, it's a damn near perfect novel. As the story of Cal, post-transformation, it's...sadly lacking. The last quarter of the book is rushed and unsatisfying. It's beautiful anyway, but a few hundred extra pages wouldn't have hurt... It also April 2012 Goddammit, Middlesex is beautiful. It's epic. And it's roughly 500 pages too short. That's right--too short. As a sweeping, three-generation epic novel that covers the lives of Calliope's grandparents, parents, and her own childhood before she became Cal, it's a damn near perfect novel. As the story of Cal, post-transformation, it's...sadly lacking. The last quarter of the book is rushed and unsatisfying. It's beautiful anyway, but a few hundred extra pages wouldn't have hurt... It also feels like something John Irving could've written, which just shows that I don't read nearly enough contemporary literature. Help me fix that!

  15. 4 out of 5

    °°°·.°·..·°¯°·._.· ʜᴇʟᴇɴ Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος ·._.·°¯°·.·° .·°°° ★·.·´¯`·.·★ Ⓥⓔⓡⓝⓤⓢ Ⓟⓞⓡⓣⓘⓣⓞⓡ Ⓐⓡⓒⓐⓝⓤⓢ Ταμετούρο Αμ

    Άρωμα και μνήμη. Το _Μιddlesex_ είναι σελίδες γεμάτες με ιστορία, ποίηση, κωμωδία και τραγωδία. Είναι ένα ταξίδι με ακυβέρνητο καράβι, ο νόστος ενός ελαττωματικού γονιδίου, στο οποίο οφείλεται η ρευστότητα του φύλου. Χρωμοσώματα, καρυότυποι, γενετικές ανωμαλίες, σύνδρομα ταυτότητας φύλου ή παραδοχής γένους, σύγχυση αρσενικών και θηλυκών χαρακτηριστικών και πολυκεντρική απόδοση της ασυνήθιστης προσωπικής ανάπτυξης ενός μοναδικού χαρακτήρα. Ο ερμαφρόδιτος αφηγητής και πρωταγωνιστής του βιβλίου ( ίσ Άρωμα και μνήμη. Το _Μιddlesex_ είναι σελίδες γεμάτες με ιστορία, ποίηση, κωμωδία και τραγωδία. Είναι ένα ταξίδι με ακυβέρνητο καράβι, ο νόστος ενός ελαττωματικού γονιδίου, στο οποίο οφείλεται η ρευστότητα του φύλου. Χρωμοσώματα, καρυότυποι, γενετικές ανωμαλίες, σύνδρομα ταυτότητας φύλου ή παραδοχής γένους, σύγχυση αρσενικών και θηλυκών χαρακτηριστικών και πολυκεντρική απόδοση της ασυνήθιστης προσωπικής ανάπτυξης ενός μοναδικού χαρακτήρα. Ο ερμαφρόδιτος αφηγητής και πρωταγωνιστής του βιβλίου ( ίσως δεν έπρεπε να είναι έτσι, ίσως ένας πιο αποστασιοποιημένος αφηγητής να μας εξιστορούσε γεγονότα που θα μπορούσε να ζει, να θυμάται, να αναβιώνει, να αποκαλύπτει, απο ουδέτερη οπτική γωνία, πιο ψυχρά, πιο ρεαλιστικά, πιο απάνθρωπα) επικαλείται όλες τις αισθήσεις και το συναισθηματικό του βάθος για να μας παρουσιάσει την οικογενειακή ιστορία της εκτοπισμένης του φύσης ως αδιαμφισβήτητη πραγματικότητα. Όλα αρχίζουν σε ένα χωριό της Μ. Ασίας, λίγο πριν την καταστροφή της Σμύρνης απο τους Τούρκους και τελειώνουν, πολλά χρόνια μετά, κάπου στο Βερολίνο, μιας εξίσου ερμαφρόδιτης Ευρώπης. Στη Μ. Ασία γνωρίζουμε το γονίδιο της μετάλλαξης, ένα κρυμμένο απο ντροπή γονίδιο στα σκοτάδια της δεισιδαιμονίας επανέρχεται στο προσκήνιο και φανερώνει τις ιδιότητες του χάρη στο άπλετο φως που του ρίχνει η αιμομικτική αγάπη ανάμεσα σε δυο αδέλφια. Η οικογενειακή ιστορία γενεών συνεχίζεται στην Αμερική, την βιομηχανοποιημένη Αμερική της πολλαπλής κρίσης. Οι Έλληνες μετανάστες προσπαθούν να ενταχτούν στην κατασπαραγμένη ήπειρο χιλιάδες όνειρα μακριά απο την πατρίδα τους. Ο Ευγενίδης, στήνει με απίστευτη λεπτομέρεια και άπειρα χρώματα το σκηνικό που εξελίσσεται ο εκτοπισμός και η ηθική ανάγκη της «διαφορετικής» οικογένειας. Στο πεδίο ενός επικού μυθιστορήματος απεικονίζονται οι κοινωνικές, πολιτιστικές, φυλετικές, σεξουαλικές, θρησκευτικές και πολιτικές αναταραχές στα μέσα του 20ου αιώνα. Μέσα σε όλα αυτά η τραγική ποιητική κωμωδία του Middlesex. Οι χαρακτήρες στην πλειοψηφία τους άριστα δομημένοι. Αγωνίζονται για τις επιλογές τους και τηρούν τα βιολογικά έθιμα της σεξουαλικής γιορτής, έστω κι αν η φύση παρεκκλίνει απο το κοινώς αποδεκτό. Ακόμη κι όταν παρεκκλίνει απο τους δικούς της νόμους, πάντα υπερισχύει, πάντα επιβάλλεται, για να προκαλέσει και να αποκαλέσει «ίδιο» καθετί «διαφορετικό». Προφανώς δεν μιλάμε για κάποιο αριστούργημα της νεότερης λογοτεχνίας, υπάρχουν αρκετά σημεία που επιδέχονται επικρίσεις ίσως και διευκρινιστικές αλλαγές. Ωστόσο ο συγγραφέας πληρώνει το τίμημα της διαμαρτυρίας και μπορεί να ισχυριστεί πως η λεπτομερειακή περιγραφή και η πολυπλοκότητα που κάπως διασπούν την αναγνωστική συνοχή, μετατρέπουν το έργο του απο ιστορία μυθοπλασίας σε τέχνη. Καλή ανάγνωση. Πολλούς ασπασμούς.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) The CCLaP 100: In which I read a hundred so-called "classics" for the first time, then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label Book #15: Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002) The story in a nutshell: The tale of "the most famous hermaphrodite in history," Middlesex is the second and lates (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) The CCLaP 100: In which I read a hundred so-called "classics" for the first time, then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label Book #15: Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002) The story in a nutshell: The tale of "the most famous hermaphrodite in history," Middlesex is the second and latest novel by Greek-American Midwesterner Jeffrey Eugenides, his first being the cult hit (and eventual Sophia Coppola movie) The Virgin Suicides. And indeed, both of these things about Eugenides should be noted in this case, because the book is not just about a hermaphrodite who is "discovered" by a pop psychologist at the height of the "let it all hang out" 1970s (hence being the most "famous" hermaphrodite in history), but a Greek-American hermaphrodite who grew up just outside of Detroit, Michigan, one who grew up as a normal girl and never suspected anything different about herself when younger, due to an aging pediatrician her family was too loyal to stop going to during Calliope/Cal's childhood. As such, then, the vast majority of the book is not about Cal at all, but rather the two generations of Greeks and then Greek-Americans who led her/him to the place where she/he now is; from Cal's grandparents who just happened to be brother and sister as well, a fact conveniently hidden by the two of them during their rushed emigration to America during the Greece/Turkey border wars of the 1920s, to Cal's parents as well, who happen to be cousins themselves and who grew up as best friends in Detroit in the 1940s and '50s. After tackling the adulthoods of both these generations, then, and all the Forrest Gumpesque historical/narrative coincidences that happen in their lives (Detroit race riots! Turk invasions!), Eugenides finally gets around to telling Cal's unique story, and of the way she eventually morphed into a he during her/his tumultuous puberty in '70s San Francisco. The argument for it being a classic: Well, you can't argue with results, Middlesex's fans say; this did win the 2002 Pulitzer Freaking Prize, after all, considered by many to be the most prestigious literary award on the planet, not to mention the more important honor of being picked a few years later for the Blessed and Glorious Oprah's Book Club Hallowed Be Her Name Amen. And it's easy to see why once you read the book, its fans say -- because Eugenides has a naturally clear yet engaging writing style, telling funny and sad stories that many people can relate to but always in a highly original way. The signs are clear that this will eventually be considered a classic anyway, fans claim, so we might as well start treating it like one now. The argument against: Now, there's a much different argument to be spelled out by this book's critics; they'll claim that Middlesex is actually two novels mashed together, with it being obvious that Eugenides started by writing a tight, inventive, very delightful 150-page novel about the hermaphrodite main character him/herself, currently serving as the last 150 pages of this 550-page book. Ah, but then someone like Eugenides' agent or publicist must've said something like, "Jeff, baby, we can't sell this as a potential Pulitzer winner if it's only 150 pages! And hey, don't you know how hot quirky epic novels about the immigrant experience are these days? So why don't you, I don't know, tack another 400 pages onto the beginning of this, 400 pages that have absolutely nothing to do with your original novel but is instead a sitcom-worthy look at the utterly stereotypical lives of the generations that came before the hermaphrodite, a story so hackneyed and obvious that we might as well retitle the book My Big Fat Greek Film-Rights Paycheck? Yeah, that's the ticket!" And thus do you end up with this mishmash of a trainwreck, the critics say, something not quite a clever magical-realism tale for the hipsters and not quite a heartwarming family tale for the Oprah mouthbreathers, that only won the Pulitzer in the first place because of the political correctness of the Millennial years. My verdict: So first let me admit that I had no idea this book had been written in 2002, until I sat down to actually read it; there's been so many amazing things said about it in the last few years, after all, I had mistakenly assumed that it was 40 or 50 years old at this point, a mistake I won't be repeating in the future. And indeed, this is why those who love "classics" lists love them with such an intensity, and why the most important criterion for all these lists seems to be whether the book has stood the test of time; because just to use today's book as an example, in this case the critics are right, with it hard to tell if this book didn't get the accolades it did simply because the academic community in the late 1990s and early 2000s was searching so desperately at the time for weighty family sagas about the immigrant experience, written by people of color with immigrant backgrounds who just happened to have academic cred (which Eugenides has -- he's a literature professor at Princeton, just like our old friend Joyce Carol Oates). In 50 years, will people look back on books like this one and sadly shake their heads, asking each other, "What were all those PC freaks at the turn of the century thinking, anyway?" It's hard to answer a question like that right now, a mere half a decade since the book came out in the first place (although I have a strong suspicion what the answer will eventually be); and this is why books that are less than 30 or 40 years old generally are not considered for such classics lists, because it's simply impossible to gauge ahead of time how well they will stand up over the decades. It's why I'm giving Middlesex today a definitive "no" to the question of whether it's a classic, and even warning readers that it's not a very good novel in general either, especially for a Pulitzer winner. A real disappointment today, probably my biggest since starting this essay series back in January. Is it a classic? No

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This book has all the major players.... Incest, war, teenage girl-on-girl experimental sex, deadheads, undescended testes, and a 2 inch penis. Yep, it took me all of one chapter to realize that Middlesex was referring to something besides a county in England. Best Part: Answering Maurice's question "What's that about?" then watching him squirm and cross his legs in obvious pain. Worst Part: Glaring Oprah sticker on the cover telling me I've succumbed to the masses.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Hmmmmm.... what to say, what to say... I sometimes go into a book "blind" - to be as unpolluted in my expectations as can be, looking only at the star ratings of my Goodreads friends in order to determine whether I will try a book. I knew only that an overwhelming number of my friends enjoyed it, and that it won the Pulitzer in 2003. Both great reasons for me to pick up this book. I didn't realise until I looked on the jacket cover that the book was about an individual, Calliope (later, Cal) who Hmmmmm.... what to say, what to say... I sometimes go into a book "blind" - to be as unpolluted in my expectations as can be, looking only at the star ratings of my Goodreads friends in order to determine whether I will try a book. I knew only that an overwhelming number of my friends enjoyed it, and that it won the Pulitzer in 2003. Both great reasons for me to pick up this book. I didn't realise until I looked on the jacket cover that the book was about an individual, Calliope (later, Cal) who is a hermaphrodite. Okay, intriguing. I also didn't realise until about 20 pages in that it all began with Cal's grandparents, who... yeah... were part of the same nuclear family. Alrighty... This is my first experience reading Jeffrey Eugenides, and he certainly knows how to write. BUT... (here's where I have to list my reasons for my three star rating on a much beloved book - I'll try to be brief) 1 - 529 pages. 529 pages! 2 - It took almost 400 of these pages before Cal's story comes into play. 3 - At times I really felt like I was getting a history lesson, and so much of it seemed superfluous to the "real" story at hand. 4 - I found the Father Mike story arc quite unbelievable. 5 - Why does he insist on calling his brother "Chapter Eleven"? 6 - His habit of switching from 1st person to 3rd somewhat randomly, felt a little jarring. 7 - It seemed to me a rather grandiose PSA for "Don't Marry Your Sibling and Then Have Your Child Marry Their Cousin and Have Babies" I don't mean to be too harsh. (Don't hate me!) As I said, Eugenides is a skilled writer. There are some sex scenes - which I believe are very difficult to write well - involving our protagonist that were beautifully rendered. He created some very memorable characters. My main problem is with the epic nature of this book. I wondered, is this a historical family saga, or is this the story of Cal? I wanted him to decide.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    Flying to Detroit for the Fourth of July weekend to visit my brother in Ypsilanti, I was looking for a great novel set in Michigan to read during my travels. Published in 2002, I'm confident that Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides--winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction--would be one of my favorite novels whether I read it in the Wolverine State, in a box or with a fox. This three-generational family saga leaps from Greece to Detroit, across the U.S. and then over the sea to Germany to tell the st Flying to Detroit for the Fourth of July weekend to visit my brother in Ypsilanti, I was looking for a great novel set in Michigan to read during my travels. Published in 2002, I'm confident that Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides--winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction--would be one of my favorite novels whether I read it in the Wolverine State, in a box or with a fox. This three-generational family saga leaps from Greece to Detroit, across the U.S. and then over the sea to Germany to tell the story of Cal Stephanides, whose 5-alpha-reductase deficiency syndrome allows him to operate in society as a man, though he was raised as a girl through the age of fourteen. Cal is a hermaphrodite. I can't think of a bolder and more illustrative exploration of immigration, transformation and Americanization than this spectacular novel. The ebb and flow of Middlesex was less like a Homeric saga and more of a tidal force. Eugenides hits with a tsunami wave with this second paragraph, which gave me an excellent idea of what I was in store for. My birth certificate lists my name was Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license (from the Federal Republic of Germany) records my first name simply as Cal. I'm a former field hockey goalie, long-standing member of the Save-the-Manatee Foundation, rare attendant at the Greek Orthodoxy liturgy, and, for most of my adult life, an employee of the U.S. State Department. Like Tiresias, I was first one thing and then the other. I've been ridiculed by classmates, guinea-pigged by doctors, palpated by specialists, and researched by the March of Dimes. A redheaded girl from Grosse Pointe fell in love with me, not knowing what I was. (Her brother liked me, too.) An army tank led me into urban battle once; a swimming pool turned me into a myth; I've left my body in order to occupy others--and all this happened before I turned sixteen. Cal does break the reader away from his genuinely unique childhood in Detroit to return to the point in his family history where nature generated a winning lottery ticket for this DNA. In the summer of 1922, his grandmother Desdemona Stephanides is a young woman, a silk worker in the Greek village of Bithynios, a thousand feet above the old Ottoman capital of Bursa. Her parents killed by Turks in a recent war, Desdemona lives as a free Greek with her brother Eleutherios ("Lefty"), a gambler by nature who idolizes the mustached thieves and gamblers of the seaside bars in Athens and Constantinople. Desdemona's silkworms produce the silk which Lefty then sells at market in Bursa, though lately, she's noticed her brother coming home later and later. Lefty tells her it's because there are no women in the village, at least, no desirable ones. Desdemona puts great effort into giving the two eligible bachelorettes in her village a makeover and playing matchmaker for her degenerate brother, but Lefty rejects his suitors, making it clear he'd prefer Desdemona. Intimately bonded with Lefty her entire life, she reciprocates that emotion. When the Turks rout the Greeks and begin to retake the disputed territory where Bithynios sits, Desdemona and Lefty flee on foot to the port of Smyrna. Starving with all the other refugees, Lefty is given some money and medical care by Nishan Philobosian, M.D., an Armenian physician who believes he is safe from reprisal due to a letter confirming he treated Kemal Pasha. Desdemona and Lefty hold out hope they can board a ship and emigrate to America, where they have a cousin in Detroit. But while Allied ships watch, the Turks burn the port and begin to massacre everyone in sight. Thinking fast, Lefty not only secures French visas for himself and his "wife" Desdemona, but Dr. Philobosian as well. Boarding a New York bound vessel from Athens, Desdemona and Lefty begin to reinvent themselves: Desdemona gives the last name "Aristos" and boards separately from her brother. With expert spycraft, they pretend to meet on the ship's deck, fabricate elaborate backstories for themselves and "court" each other for the passengers to see. Their wedding commences in the Atlantic Ocean crossing, their honeymoon under a tarp covering one of the lifeboats. In one of many dexterous moments in his narrative, Eugenides makes both incest and illegal immigration seem less like the acts of criminals and more like acts of survival. Cal's grandparents would've preferred to remain in Bithynios, but couldn't survive there. So, they change. Traveling made it easier. Sailing across the ocean among half a thousand perfect strangers conveyed an anonymity in which my grandparents could recreate themselves. The driving spirit of the Giulia was self-transformation. Staring out to sea, tobacco farmers imagined themselves as race car drivers, silk dyers as Wall Street tycoons, millinery girls as fan dancers in the Ziegfeld Follies. Gray ocean stretched in all directions. Europe and Asia Minor were dead behind them. Ahead lay America and new horizons. Desdemona and Lefty's cousin Sourmelina meets them at Grand Trunk Station. Lina was sent away from the village after being caught in one too many compromising positions with women. Her family offered a dowry to a good Greek boy, an American, named Jimmy Zismiopoulos, alias "Zizmo." Zizmo is an importer of "assorted fuels." As soon as Prohibition was announced, he relocated to the biggest city with the closest proximity to Canada. Detroit. Zizmo uses his connections at Ford to get Lefty a job on the assembly line, which Lefty makes great strides in before the company finds out about Zizmo's affiliations and fires his brother-in-law. In a case of bad timing, Desdemona and Lina conceive children on the same night. To make ends meet, Lefty opens a speakeasy in the basement, a place with irregular hours he calls The Zebra Room. Desdemona gives birth to a son named Miltiades ("Milton"). Lina has a daughter named Theodora, who picks up the nickname "Tessie." The year is 1923. His gambling streak alive and well, Lefty opens an above-the-ground Zebra Room off West Grand Boulevard. Twenty-one years later, cousins Milton and Tessie share a backyard fence. Desdemona attempts to arrange a marriage between her son and a good Greek girl, but her matchmaking skills fail all over again when Milton shows greater interest in Tessie. He serenades her through his window or over the telephone by playing the clarinet. Tessie is courted by a seminarian at Greek Orthodox school and ultimately agrees to marry him. Milton enlists in the Navy to get even with her. Tessie spends a lot of time at the movies, having second thoughts about being a priest's wife. Whatever the reason, in the bedroom light of the movie theater Tessie Zizmo allows herself to remember things she's been trying to forget: a clarinet nosing its way up her leg like an invading force itself, tracing an arrow to her own island empire, an empire which, she realizes at that moment, she is giving up to the wrong man. While the flickering beam of the movie projector slants through the darkness over her head, Tessie admits to herself that she doesn't want to marry Michael Antoniou. She doesn't want to be a priest's wife or movie to Greece. As she gazes at Milton in the newsreel, her eyes fill with tears and she says out loud, "There was nowhere I could go that wouldn't be you." Facing certain death as a signalman in the Pacific, Milton scores a 98 on a service exam, is whisked away from combat and accepted into the Naval Academy. Returning to Detroit, he marries Tessie and takes over operation of the Zebra Room, remodeling the place and planning an expansion. Milton and Tessie give birth to a son--whom Cal refers to throughout as "Chapter 11"--and later try for another child. Wary of the excessive testosterone in her home, Tessie wants a girl, and defies the Old World predictions of Desdemona to deliver a daughter the couple named Calliope. Neither the pediatrician or the family physician--an aging Dr. Philobosian--notice that Calliope is not like other infant girls, but 5-alpha-reductase deficiency is hard to detect, until Calliope, a product of astronomical luck, reaches puberty and androgens begin to flood her circulatory system. Middlesex is as close to a flawless novel as I think I've read. There might be readers unable to make the logical leaps that I did, or overlook the plot developments I was able to--incest is very wrong, right?--but what takes up greater real estate for me is mystery. Eugenides exposes secret histories, hidden places and unusual human beings that just haven't been examined by a Big Novel before. Not like this. The novel is every bit as great as East of Eden. Much like Steinbeck, Eugenides infuses the Stephanides family narrative with lust, conspiracies, makeovers, ambitions and missteps. These are people cut with deep passions and frailties. These are Americans, regardless of what their name is, where they come from originally, what they look like or what their gender identity is. The writing is drenched wit and passion. A crucial story development comes down to Milton being able to seduce Tessie not with any sexual instruments, but while they're still inexperienced in that department, placing the bell of his clarinet on various parts of her anatomy. And so it began. He played "Begin the Beguine" against Tessie's collarbone. He played "Moonface" against her smooth cheeks. Pressing the clarinet right up against the red toenails that had so dazzled him, he played "It Goes To Your Feet." With a secrecy they didn't acknowledge, Milton and Tessie drifted off to quiet parts of the house, and there, lifting her skirt a little, or removing a sock, or once, when nobody was home, pulling up her blouse to expose her lower back, Tessie allowed Milton to press his clarinet to her skin and fill her body with music. At first it only tickled her. But after a while the notes spread deeper into her body. She felt the vibrations penetrate her muscles, pulsing in waves, until they rattled her bones and made her inner organs hum. I never realized the extent of the genocides of the Greek and Armenian people by Turkish forces, while the Allied Powers stood by. I never knew that Henry Ford was so devoted to virtue that his sociological department visited workers at their home to make sure they spoke English, owned a mortgage and exhibited proper hygiene. I wasn't aware of the extent of the Detroit uprising by blacks against the National Guard--which history continues to record as a "riot"--in 1967. Eugenides finds compelling ways to explore history, not through the lecture, but by immersing his characters, and the reader, in these episodes. Desdemona goes to work in Black Bottom, the black ghetto in Detroit, for the Nation of Islam as a silk dyer and in addition to being remarkably compelling as a story development--we wonder how a Greek immigrant is going to make out hired by militants--Eugenides shows the reader why the community was primed to explode thirty years later. I haven't discussed Cal or the kink in his genetic mapping much at all. The book isn't about a hermaphrodite at all, even though later chapters of Middlesex are as richly detailed on the facts of life in the intersex community as anything else I've mentioned. The characters he meets as he (view spoiler)[runs away from home at the age of fourteen, fleeing corrective surgery all the way to San Francisco (hide spoiler)] are every bit as fascinating at those in Cal's biological family. Zora, a shapely blonde with Androgen Insensitivity who like Cal, developed as a female, says, "There have been hermaphrodites around forever, Cal. Forever. Plato said the original human being was a hermaphrodite. Did you know that? The original person was two halves, one male, one female. Then these got separated. That's why everybody's always searching for their other half. Except for us. We've got both halves already." The search for the Great American Novel is bound to bring you around to Middlesex eventually.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    What a big pile of everything this is! I like books like Middlesex, one's that stretch over generations, capturing historic moments in time from different perspectives and encapsulating an era. But sometimes they can be too busy, and Middlesex is toooo damn busy. Part of the problem is that the transgender struggles of the main character are plenty of story to work with, so there's no need to tie in an immigration from the motherland tale or set it against the 1960s Detroit riots as a background. What a big pile of everything this is! I like books like Middlesex, one's that stretch over generations, capturing historic moments in time from different perspectives and encapsulating an era. But sometimes they can be too busy, and Middlesex is toooo damn busy. Part of the problem is that the transgender struggles of the main character are plenty of story to work with, so there's no need to tie in an immigration from the motherland tale or set it against the 1960s Detroit riots as a background. All that extra makes this great book too fussy. Certainly a setting is needed. But there's backdrop settings and then there's settings with curtains, drapes, murals, and suddenly it's smothering the bloody scene! Having said that, Middlesex is still a fun, intriguing read. Though perhaps it's not the "instant classic" it's been made out to be. Frankly, I'm surprised it won the Pulitzer. But read it and you'll probably enjoy it. Don't read it and you'll get on just fine.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Would have given this book two more stars except for one resounding disappointment I can't get past. I thought that one of the most important aspects of the book was entirely skipped over by the author without any explanation. *Spoiler Alert* It's probably not a spoiler, but what I have to say may alleviate some of the intrigue - you have been warned. I really, really, really wanted to know why Calliope 'chose' to live life as Cal once she learned that she was a biological male. It was, arguably, Would have given this book two more stars except for one resounding disappointment I can't get past. I thought that one of the most important aspects of the book was entirely skipped over by the author without any explanation. *Spoiler Alert* It's probably not a spoiler, but what I have to say may alleviate some of the intrigue - you have been warned. I really, really, really wanted to know why Calliope 'chose' to live life as Cal once she learned that she was a biological male. It was, arguably, the most important and perhaps only choice she->he had in the entire book, and the author just skips that part. This transitionless transition to living as a male stands in stark comparison to the rest of the book which does a competent job of developing each of the main characters throughout their lives...and for every other seemingly inexplicable action the reader understands the characters enough to know WHY they acted in a certain way. The Calliope->Cal change is so abrupt in the book, and lacks any of the personal insight that the rest of the book teems with...it's almost like the author got tired of writing by the time the transition comes about (quite late in the book), and he just wanted to be done with it. Perhaps the author didn't expand on the "choice" to live as Cal because his point is supposed to be that it really wasn't a choice. But I would even have liked to know why Calliope didn't think living as Cal was a choice and was instead a biological or personal inevitability...but no aspect of her choice/lack of choice was addressed. Inappropriate foreshortening aside, I do think that the writing is often quite eloquent. I certainly would have appreciated fewer of the cliche metaphors for change/new beginnings/etc. The author does take the obvious to new heights, however, when he would state for the reader too obtuse to understand that the egg being described actually represents an immigrant beginning life in her new land by ending the paragraph with something like, "...you see she was that egg."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    It goes without saying that this is one amazing book and my first Pulitzer winner as well. I took two weeks to read this one, but this is my issue, as always. I was incredibly inpatient, with a lifestyle that does not do well in relation to not being instantly gratified. This is such a special story, there is no instant anything. It is to be savoured and appreciated, there cannot be any rushing. I think I’m best in this instance to just write about my experience whilst reading this top notch boo It goes without saying that this is one amazing book and my first Pulitzer winner as well. I took two weeks to read this one, but this is my issue, as always. I was incredibly inpatient, with a lifestyle that does not do well in relation to not being instantly gratified. This is such a special story, there is no instant anything. It is to be savoured and appreciated, there cannot be any rushing. I think I’m best in this instance to just write about my experience whilst reading this top notch book. Everyone knows the story, a story which I consider to be Cal’s and Cal’s only. As always, my reading experience is so much better when I learn something, and this award winning book expanded my vocab (how many new ones did I come across here?!) and my knowledge of American lifestyle around the prohibition era, bits and pieces that unfortunately went over my head about Plato and all that jazz, and Turkish slash Greek historical events. I am glad I read this, but I should be careful not to have high expectations in savouring books. I spent the last ten pages reading while playing cars with my 3 year old, I’d arrived at the point where I was so engrossed in coming full circle with Cal and his coming of age, that I simply had to keep going. I’m so glad Cal resisted in being swept up in ill-informed medical opinions from a man that had no idea of the person that was attached to the genitalia that he so harshly poked and prodded. Then how nice was it to come across Desdemona at the end, I wondered what her ending was to be. I thought it fitting that it was she that communicated her long held secret to her grandson. A very ineloquent review to describe an amazing book, one that I recommend you become immersed in if you can grab the chance.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Middlesex is Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer prize winning novel about a hermaphrodite, Calliope Stephanides, the family who made her, and her journey from being her father’s little girl to being his youngest son. 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. This opening line sets up everything that is to follow, and Eugenides spins what is a difficul Middlesex is Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer prize winning novel about a hermaphrodite, Calliope Stephanides, the family who made her, and her journey from being her father’s little girl to being his youngest son. 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. This opening line sets up everything that is to follow, and Eugenides spins what is a difficult tale with complete command and amazing dexterity. There is a lot of subtle humor in the novel, which is needed with what could be a seriously uncomfortable subject otherwise. Calliope/Cal is often able to laugh at his own predicament and find the humor in his family dynamics, and so we laugh with him, not at him. In making Cal so likable and genuine, Eugenides makes it impossible to miss the aim of this novel. He is different, he is unusual, he might even be weird, but he is human, and he is like us in every way, but one. His desires for love and acceptance and self-identification are common to us all. As he struggles with why he isn’t like the other girls, we struggle with why he needs to be. His story is so compelling because it is impossible not to relate to it in toto. I, in fact, wondered how Eugenides managed to know so well what it felt like to be teenage girl. He also said, “here’s what’s not so funny. These live, irreplaceable sons and daughters of God, human beings all, want you to know, among other things, that that’s exactly what they are, human beings.” When I read that, I thought, that’s it in a nutshell, the crux of the matter for all of us, we are human. If you prick us, do we not bleed? I have never started a book with less hope of loving it and ended up so completely reversed. I doubted that this story was in my wheelhouse, but then realized that was the point, this situation is outside everyone’s wheelhouse, even the people, like Cal, who deal with it first hand. Some books are meant to expand our horizons, the best ones always do that, this one did.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Megan Baxter

    This was my second time reading Middlesex, and I have to admit I approached it with some trepidation, wondering if I would enjoy it as much the second time, if I would be as swept up in the story, if, indeed, it would hold up. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here. In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

  25. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    A storytelling hermaphrodite chronicles his family's history beginning with his grandparent's emmigration from Turkey to the US in the 1920s. Incest. Mythology. Dysfunctional Greek families. Explosive secrets. Humor in the most unexpected places. Drugs. Sex. Hippies. Riots. Hitchhikers. The Illiad. WHY AREN'T YOU OUT THE DOOR YET? GO. BOOKSTORE. PURCHASE. READ. YOU'RE WELCOME.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Martine

    I'm torn on this book. On the one hand, I loved the story, which is, as another reviewer put it, 'the greatest, most incestuous Greek epic since the Iliad'. On the other hand, I had serious problems with some of the writing. I haven't seen my quibbles mentioned anywhere else, so I guess I'm alone on them. Or am I? In a nutshell, Middlesex is the story of Cal, a Greek American who was born a hermaphrodite and raised as a girl before finally realising he was boy as a teenager. In about five hundred I'm torn on this book. On the one hand, I loved the story, which is, as another reviewer put it, 'the greatest, most incestuous Greek epic since the Iliad'. On the other hand, I had serious problems with some of the writing. I haven't seen my quibbles mentioned anywhere else, so I guess I'm alone on them. Or am I? In a nutshell, Middlesex is the story of Cal, a Greek American who was born a hermaphrodite and raised as a girl before finally realising he was boy as a teenager. In about five hundred occasionally brilliant pages, Cal traces back his family history (which is rife with inbreeding) to see how he came to be the sort of almost-male he is. In so doing, he not only paints a loving picture of the memorable and colourful Stephanides clan, whose men have rather special ways of wooing women, but of a changing world, all the way from the Greek part of early-twentieth-century Turkey through mid-twentieth-century Detroit to post-Wall Berlin. What with its focus on different conflicts in different eras, the book is quite epic in scope. Yet it is also quite personal, with the social and racial conflicts played out in the world at large reflecting the much more private conflict that is going on within Cal. Both the epic and the intimate aspects of the novel are funny, poignant and tragic, and for that Jeffrey Eugenides deserves applause. Lots of it. But. But. But. I have to admit to finding Eugenides an awfully inconsistent writer. While he undeniably has a flair for story-telling, he also has a mad tendency to change tenses and perspectives, to the point where it actually quite took me out of the story. I dislike stories which switch back and forth between past tense and present tense within a matter of paragraphs at the best of times; if these stories also come equipped with narrators who constantly switch points of view, I get annoyed. And this is exactly what happens in Middlesex. Not only is Cal an omniscient first-person narrator who shares with the reader details from older relatives' lives which he has no way of knowing, but he also has a maddening tendency to randomly refer to himself in the third person, which results in sudden bursts of 'Calliope this' and 'Calliope that' in what is essentially a first-person narrative. To a certain extent, I can see why Cal would do this, looking back from a distance at a person he used to be but no longer is, but still, I found it annoying, so much so that I occasionally found myself wanting to scream at the narrator to drop all that third-person shit and stick with the first person, for God's sake. I don't like feeling like shouting at narrators, so that's where one star went. The other one I deducted for the weak ending, which felt rather rushed to me after the perfectly lavish set-up. Is it me, or would Middlesex have been a better book with slightly more information on what happened to Cal between the ages of 17 and 41? With an actual, you know, ending and all that? I'll stop complaining here to end on a positive note. Despite my quibbles, I enjoyed most of Middlesex -- especially the first half, which is superb. I quite like Eugenides' brand of modern mythology, so I think I'll give The Virgin Suicides a shot, too. I rather liked the film, so I'm actually quite surprised I haven't read the book yet...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    “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.” I'd heard Middlesex was about a character who was born intersex and raised as a girl - a compelling enough premise on its own - but I didn't realize this book was a rich, complex family drama, spanning multiple generations and featuring incest, immigration, family secrets and twentieth-century Ameri “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.” I'd heard Middlesex was about a character who was born intersex and raised as a girl - a compelling enough premise on its own - but I didn't realize this book was a rich, complex family drama, spanning multiple generations and featuring incest, immigration, family secrets and twentieth-century America. It seems some readers were disappointed about this and wanted more from our protagonist and narrator, but I honestly love these kind of stories (The House of the Spirits is an old favourite of mine). So many characters came in and out of this novel, and were in turns likeable, deserving of sympathy, annoying and downright insufferable (but kind of in a good way). I love it when authors create such well-drawn individuals who feel so completely real and alive - it makes me far more invested in their stories. And there is so much going on here. We are taken on a journey of familial (and genetic) history, from a small Greek village to Detroit (prohibition, race riots and many cultural changes) to suburban Michigan. Eugenides allows Cal to explore his identity and come to terms with who he is by taking his story way back to the beginning; back before he questioned his gender, back before he was even conceived. I actually quite liked the idea that a person has been years in the making long before they're born. That our stories begin way before us in far off lands, in communities and societies that are foreign to us. Not to get too cheesy, but there's something pleasantly overwhelming about novels that make me feel small amid the vast expanse of the universe. Another criticism of Middlesex is the way the book shows intersexuality occurring as a result of incest (something widely considered abhorrent). It's an interesting point, but I personally didn't feel it was driven by any kind of ulterior message. Though I find incest nauseating, it's actually portrayed in a sensitive and non-judgmental way, and the genetic science behind the novel makes sense - the 5-alpha-reductase deficiency is a recessive condition that mainly manifests in inbred populations. I really liked it. I liked the science. I liked the history. And I really liked the novel's humanity - all these unforgettable characters each having an important part to play in the story of Calliope "Cal" Stephanides. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube | Store

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barry Pierce

    Jeffrey and I started on very bad terms. I read his Virgin Suicides and well that was an overhyped disappointment. The Marriage Plot is shaping up to be one of the worst books I read this year. So obviously I was apprehensive about starting this. But I did. And I liked it. What can I say, it’s a good book! Praise the baby Jesus, Jeffrey Eugenides wrote a good book! This is a perfectly fine novel. It held my interest all the way through and I actually wanted to know what happened as the novel prog Jeffrey and I started on very bad terms. I read his Virgin Suicides and well that was an overhyped disappointment. The Marriage Plot is shaping up to be one of the worst books I read this year. So obviously I was apprehensive about starting this. But I did. And I liked it. What can I say, it’s a good book! Praise the baby Jesus, Jeffrey Eugenides wrote a good book! This is a perfectly fine novel. It held my interest all the way through and I actually wanted to know what happened as the novel progressed! Shock horror, I know. So yeah. I liked a Eugenides novel. In other news, Hell has apparently frozen over…

  29. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    When the Turks invade Smyrna, two Greeks, Lefty and her sister Desdemona, embark for America, with their meager baggage and a recessive chromosome each waiting patiently to be woken up. The circumstances are favorable to them since Lefty and Desdemona profit from landing in unknown land to live their forbidden passion and to marry. Their son marrying his cousin, the little Calliope is born, girl for everyone, although having the gonads of both sexes. The novel is divided into two main parts: the When the Turks invade Smyrna, two Greeks, Lefty and her sister Desdemona, embark for America, with their meager baggage and a recessive chromosome each waiting patiently to be woken up. The circumstances are favorable to them since Lefty and Desdemona profit from landing in unknown land to live their forbidden passion and to marry. Their son marrying his cousin, the little Calliope is born, girl for everyone, although having the gonads of both sexes. The novel is divided into two main parts: the first tells the story of the emigration of the Stephanides family to the United States and the adventures that accompany it: the rise of Ford and the assembly line, prohibition and illegal bars, riots in Detroit due to the racial discrimination, ... The second part deals with hermaphroditism, and the difficulty for Calliope to understand a body that constantly sends him contradictory signals. The opportunity for me to learn a little about intersex, not so rare that it (from 1 to 15 people in 1000 involved) and treated until there is little amputation. Eugenides offers us a beautiful journey of almost a century, oscillating between the story with a big H and the tribulations of a family carried away by these events, without boring us for a single second.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    If you're the type of person who covers your eyes as you watch a sex scene in a movie, this may not be the book for you. Some of the lovin' here is graphic and unconventional, and it's easy to squirm around in discomfort. But, if you love good storytelling, great storytelling, you may be willing to overlook a few less than ideal feelings in your intestines. Eugenides is an exceptional writer, and I marveled at some of his images. His writing is fresh and different and inviting. But, more than any If you're the type of person who covers your eyes as you watch a sex scene in a movie, this may not be the book for you. Some of the lovin' here is graphic and unconventional, and it's easy to squirm around in discomfort. But, if you love good storytelling, great storytelling, you may be willing to overlook a few less than ideal feelings in your intestines. Eugenides is an exceptional writer, and I marveled at some of his images. His writing is fresh and different and inviting. But, more than anything else, he is, at his core, a brilliant storyteller. I could not turn away from this multi-generational account of a family of Greek immigrants and their unusual trajectory that leads to Cal, the damaged but lovable protagonist. I won't be forgetting this story any time soon.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In order to read or download eBook, you need to create FREE account.
eBook available in PDF, ePub, MOBI and Kindle versions



Loading...