Monday, March 24, 2008
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides is probably one of the best novels I have read. I usually read novels very fast but with this one I tokk my time, enjoying his writing style and hoping not to finish it soon.
It was published in 2002 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003. Ambitious and brilliantly conceived, Middlesex traces a rampant gene through generations of the Stephenides family, which caused narrator Cal Stephenides to be “reborn” as a boy when he’d previously been raised as a girl. Not a “him” in the strictest sense then, but a hermaphrodite. Cal’s story traces his/her Greek roots through the Depression, WWII and the Detroit race riots, up to the present.
Unlike most of my posts, this is a lot of words and a few pictures, here are a few excerpts of the book, enjoy!
"I'm working up with the foregoing to a physical description of myself...
As a baby, even as a little girl, I possessed an awkward, extravagant beauty. No single feature was right in itself and yet, taken all together, something captivating emerged. An inadvertent harmony was achieved by my irregular features. A changeableness in my expressions, too, as if beneath my visible face there was another, always having second thoughts."
"Emotions, in my experience, aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy" or "regret." Maybe the best proof that language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." I'd like to show how "intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members" connects with "the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age." I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever. "
"To resume my parents' story, I need to bring up a very embarrassing memory for a Greek American: Michael Dukakis on his tank. Do you remember that? The single image that doomed our hopes of getting a Greek into the White House: Dukakis, wearing an oversize army helmet, bouncing along on top of an M41 Walker Buldog. Trying to look presidential but looking instead a little boy on an amusement park ride. (Every time a Greek gets near the Oval Office something goes wrong. First it was Agnew with tax evasion and it was Dukakis with the tank.) Before Dukakis climbed up on that armored vehicle, before he took off his J. Press suit and put on that army fatigues, we all felt - I speak for my fellow Greek Americans, whether they want me to or not - a sense of exultation. This man was the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States! He was from Massachusetts, like the Kennedys! (...) Look at the bumper stickers on all the Volvos. "Dukakis." A name with more than two vowels in it running for President! The last time that had happened was Eisenhower (who looked good on a tank). Generally speaking Americans like their president to have no more than two vowels. Truman. Johnson. Nixon. Clinton. If they have more than two vowels (Reagan), they can have no more than two syllables. Even better is one syllable and one vowel: Bush. Had to do that twice. Why did Mario Cuomo decided against running for president? What conclusion did he come to as he withdrew to think the matter through? Unlike Michael Dukakis, who was from academic Massachusetts, Mario Cuomo was from New York and knew what was what. Cuomo knew he'd never win. Too liberal for the moment, certainly. But also: too many vowels."