Friday, August 24, 2007


Jeffrey Eugenides won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2003 for his novel Middlesex. My paperback edition is 529 pages. This is another Pulitzer Prize winner that was on my to-be-read list. It is a beautifully written family saga. You will be tempted at times to think it is a real autobiography. I highly recommend Middlesex.

Much like Atwood's The Blind Assasin, you start out knowing vital information about the plot of Middlesex. The first sentence says, "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." Yes, it is about a hermaphrodite, eventually, but it is really the history of the Stephanides family from 1922, before his grandparents Lefty and Desdemona fled Greece, to the present. It follows this family and the recessive gene that eventually is present in our narrator, Calliope, or Cal.

I really kept feeling that I was reading an extremely well written autobiography because the characters were so real and the time and place were so clearly defined for each era. Eugenides has a real gift. Whether he is capturing the feeling of Prohibition-era Detroit, or life on Middlesex Boulevard in Grosse Pointe, MI, you feel as if he is describing a very real place. In another display of talent, Eugenides very easily and believably goes from the voice of Cal or Calliope. You never feel it's a gimic or contrived. He tells the stroy of a Greek family living in America with wit, humor, and sadness. If you enjoy reading family sagas, Middlesex fits that description.

"Desdemona became what she'd remain for the rest of her life: a sick person imprisioned in a healthy body."

"Historical fact: people stopped being human in 1913. That was the year Henry Ford put his cars on rollers and made his workers adopt the speed of the assembly line. At first the workers rebelled. They quit in droves, unable to accustom their bodies to the new pace of the age. Since then, however, the adaptation has been passed down: we've all inherited it to some degee, so that we plug right into joysticks and remotes, to repetitive motions of a hundred kinds.
But in 1922 it was still a new thing to be a machine."

"In support of my personal belief that real life doesn't live up to writing about it, the members of my family seem to have spent most of their time that year engaged in correspondence."

"I hadn't gotten old enough yet to realize that living sends a person not into the future, but back into the past, to childhood and before birth, finally, to commune with the dead.... In this life we grow backwards. It's always the gray-haired tourists on Italian buses who can tell you something about the Etruscans."

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