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31 January 2010 @ 10:36 pm
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

Oh, I LIKED this! I'm going to give it a heart (because I can't do the .html for stars).

Cal is a hermaphrodite. The reason for this is that her/his grandparents were also brother and sister. This literary conceit was unnecessary; in such circumstances, Lefty or Desdemona marrying anyone from their interbred little village probably would have done the trick. But I went along with it happily because Eugenides sold me on it. Totally.

The flashback-format illustrates the lives of Cal's grandparents and parents - who are first cousins - and his/her own early life. Where I think it fell down was in not showing what happened to Cal after the age of sixteen. He's narrating it as a forty-something man. He says he spent those thirty-odd years in seclusion from both the intersex movement and romance, which is convenient in terms of not having to write a whole lot about it, but disappointing from the reader's POV. The interludes with Julie were nothing but a sop. I really wanted him to meet the Object again, and also get posted to Turkey to bring the story full circle.

What I thought was most excellent was the fact that despite the high drama of both Desdemona's and Lefty's relationship, and Milton's and Tessie's courtship (the clarinet!), both of them petered out into workaday partnerships with a decrescendo of disappointment. It was all the more touching because of what Desdemona, especially, went through to admit her attraction to her brother ... and he turned out to be as disappointing a husband as any old guy.

Mik said the middle part dragged when she read this. Perhaps thanks to being on the lookout for it constantly, I didn't notice that myself. I did think Milton's death was a little overwrought and the part where Cal runs away had the markings of 'oh god how to end this' hysteria, but ... overall, it was enjoyable, different and well-written. It just could have been longer. I also learned about Smyrna and the Detroit race riots, about which I was totally ignorant before.

My father never went along [to church], having become an apostate at the age of eight over the exorbitant price of votive candles.

OH LOL. In Catholic churches you just press a button - you don't have to pay at all if you don't want. (Although presumably God looks upon this harshly.)

"The Church doesn't want people not to think," Michael replied without taking offense. "The Church believes that thinking will take a person only so far. Where thinking ends, revelation begins."
But Milton persisted, "I'd say where thinking ends, stupidity begins."

What can I say but \o/?

Suddenly he was waving his arms, indicating everything, and shouting through the door, "What's the matter with you people?"
Morrison took only a moment. "The matter with us," he said, "is you."

BEST MOMENT IN THE BOOK. Something just fell into place for me when I read that - especially because, for many reasons - most of them involuntary - I am that you.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2010:
The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories, Anton Chekhov
I'll take you there, Joyce Carol Oates
Current Music: sunday // bloc party
...: [Misc] Bookschowburger on January 31st, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
I loved this book! When I picked it up, I was expecting something completely different and significantly less epic (in the non-internet sense of the word), but I ended up loving the historical scope of it. Like you said, I learned about a few events that I had no prior knowledge of at all.

Have you read The Virgin Suicides? You most certainly should if you haven't!

Also, I don't know if I've ever said this to you before, but WHERE THE HELL DO YOU FIND THE TIME TO READ ALL THESE BOOKS WHILE YOU STUDY MEDICINE AT THE SAME TIME? It baffles me, since I think I read about the same number of books in a year as you do, but I study the bloody things! Crazy lady.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: b&w kissesscoradh on January 31st, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
I actually thought it would be a lot denser. Also, I thought it would be set in England, because Middlesex is in England. WHOOPS.

I have seen the film - by accident. I do hate reading books when I know what's going to happen. I have a spoiler-phobia. That's why I'm thinking of reading the Road before watching it, even though I don't actually WANT to watch it.

... I don't have much of a social life? Also, shhh don't tell, but medical books are HELLA BORING.

eta Oh yeah, I don't watch TV! Maybe that's it?

Edited at 2010-01-31 11:03 pm (UTC)
Rinaveryshortlist on February 1st, 2010 02:13 am (UTC)
Yes, read The Road, it's so good. Terribly depressing, of course, but good.
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every Starbucks should have a polar bear: anumberonme fainting couchscoradh on January 31st, 2010 10:59 pm (UTC)
I sometimes wonder if maybe I'm immune to the shock of these things because, FANDOM, but then I think of all I'd miss if I didn't. Like this.

I still think there's scope for more about grown-up!Cal, though. Even a sequel!
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every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 31st, 2010 11:28 pm (UTC)
I WAS surprised it didn't win a Booker. But then, given the style of Bookers nowadays (THE WHITE TIGER, ANYONE? >:|), it probably shouldn't have.
disordered_messdisordered_mess on February 2nd, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
I loved this book, too! I read it when I was about sixteen, and it was awesome... But than I had to do a presentation of it in front of my class. Awwwwwkward.
Sinjahsinjah on July 24th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
Belated comment, because I am stalking your book posts, and this is the only book I have somewhat read from your list :/ (major fail - fanfiction has ruined me, for real, I used to read like 20-30 books a year)

In any case. Every single time you make a new book post, I keep noticing the name of this book, every single time, because I've been meaning to read it for *years* Aaaages ago, I was on holiday with a friend, and her mother was reading it, and we had stolen it one day on the ferry and took turns reading the first couple of chapters to each other. We never managed to finish it, and so I never read it (in short, it's like $30 here to buy, and we have no libraries).

At the time, I had mixed feelings about it. I wasn't sure about the style, it seemed too... dry, but maybe that's because I never really got started. I was definitely intrigued and hooked, though, and it's still nagging at me. I was kind of hoping you'd hated it so I could stop thinking about reading it, damn XD

And I tend to shy away from things about Smyrna. It's interesting, I like it, it gets to me, but it does get tiring after a point when you're Greek, and especially since all my great-grandparents were from Asia Minor.

This comment is all over the place, sorry.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on July 24th, 2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Fanfiction got me like that for a long while, too. :D

I can't actually reassure you on that point. It's the first ~~Greek book I've read - as in, someone Greek writing about Greeks in a way that isn't necessarily just about Greekishness. I can't vouch for its accuracy or honesty. But it is a good book?