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Paperback Middlesex Book

ISBN: 0312427735

ISBN13: 9780312427733

Middlesex

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver's license...records my first name simply as Cal." So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Middlesex is an insightful novel

Reading a novel about a hermaphrodite is something I never thought I would enjoy, but I was wrong. Middlesex is an excellent book. Jeffery Eugenides is a talented and insightful writer. He describes how Greek immigrants of both sexes had to work hard to survive in Detroit in the early part of the 20th century. Lefty is a fictional character in the novel. I loved reading about how hard he worked to improve his life. He started working at a factory making car engines, and he worked diligently to become a successful bar owner. Eugenidies' description of the race riots in Detroit in 1967 is very vivid. I could picture people looting shops and setting them on fire. I have no idea how a hermaphrodite feels, and I think Eugenides does a good job writing about how it feels to live as one. The main character is a hermaphrodite named Callie. Eugenides writes about Callie's confusion and frustration about not developing like other girls as a teenager. This is very moving. He also writes about her experiences with drugs and having sexual relations with a female classmate. Middlesex is very much a coming of age novel because of the self exploration element. I enjoyed reading how Callie's parents loved and treated her unconditionally. Middlesex is a novel that reminds people to accept and embrace individuals with gender differences.

Greek Love

I wasn't enthusiastic about reading this book. I'd found "Virgin Suicides" good but slight and rather depressing. The blurb led me to think it it might crude pornography about a transvestite, like "Myra Breckenbridge" (not that I don't think Vidal is great) and finally I was put off by learning that it was a panorama of twentieth history - when I want history I read history books. Anyway it found its way into my house the way books do, and I did not put it down after I'd started. Some of the quotations in the trade reviews give an idea of the quality of the writing. Such a commonplace event as taking the bus through the Lincoln Tunnel is magnificiently done "...through the long yellow-lit dizzy tunnel that led to New Jersey. Going underground through the rock, with the filthy river bottom above us, and fish swimming in the black water on the other side of the curving tiles." The Detroit ambience is terrific, and the characteristics of each city, Smyrna, Bursa, San Francisco, New York and Berlin are deftly nailed. The history lesson is not just about the events, but is subtle and insightful about the changes in sexual mores from nineteenth centtury Turkey to 21st century Germany. The medical details are accurate. (...) The bizarre endocrinologist at New York Hospital is based on the Johns Hopkins psychologist skewered in "As Nature Made Him."

A terrific novel!

From the first sentence of Jeffrey Eugenides' MIDDLESEX, I was hooked by this complicated tale of a young girl who grows into a man. The story of Cal Stephanides begins generations before his birth, in a small Greek village, when his grandparents succumb to incestuous desires. Immigration to the United States keeps Desdemona and Lefty's secret intact - until their grandchild Cal reaches puberty. Told with both humor and earnestness, the story grows more engaging with every page. The brilliance of this book emerges not from the superficial story of a hermaphrodite but from the context - historical, scientific, psychological, political, geographical - of Cal's birth and subsequent rebirth. MIDDLESEX is about much more than gender confusion. Cal's mixed gender can be taken as a metaphor for the experience of first- and second-generations born of immigrants.While the context of this story provides the substance, the characters provide the vibrancy. Cal emerges as a reliable and likeable narrator. He is sensible, good-humored, and intelligent. The spectrum of his experiences provides a smooth transition between childhood and adult, enabling the reader to embrace the character as both male and female. Cal's family is affectionately portrayed, even with their failings. (Cal's brother, Chapter Eleven, annoyed me with his name, a running gag, but even he ended up a full-blooded character by the end.)Eugenides has written an expansive, compelling book. Despite its length of over 500 pages, the novel is not a slow read - unless the reader wants it to be, to make it last. Accessible, intelligent, well-paced and plotted, it should appeal to a wide range of readers.I can't recommend this novel highly enough.

Woven Fate

Though Middlesex's leading man(Cal)/lady(Callie) is a hermaphrodite, the book spends only a few of its pages exploring what it is like to view, or experience, the world from the perspective of both sexes at once. So if this is what you are looking for in the book, you will surely be disappointed. Rather, the book's principal theme is more universal: how little control we have over who we become. Eugenides narrative skillfully reveals how but for this or that event, each of his characters would not be who they are. For example, Cal/Callie would not have been born a hermaphrodite but for her paternal great-grandparents' deaths, her paternal grandfather not having any other attractive woman to marry, a massacre in Turkey, her maternal grandfather's jealousy and doubts of paternity, World War II, etc. The book uses silk cocoons as a metaphor for the tangled histories that make us all who were are, an unwinding string that goes back far beyond our expectations. Though, as one reaches the last quarter of the book, the disparate strands of silk spin together, explaining Cal/Callie's decision to run away and the intertwined fate of her father. I had read this book a couple of month's after reading Gaille's The Law Review, which grappled with this same problem of how much control we have over where we wind up. One passage from that book also rings true for Eugenides' characters in Middlesex, too: "Decision. I think decision itself is a misnomer. It implies that a choice existed for me at the final moment. More often than not, though, one becomes embroiled in adversity not from a single bad decision, but rather from a series of little decisions that were fine when they were made." Such is the fate of us all.
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