Saturday, July 18, 2015


Jeffrey Eugenides won a Pulitzer for Middlesex, a novel about an hermaphrodite.  I found myself thinking that it is amazing that someone could have conceived of this story. And, as was the case with another of his books, The Marriage Plot, there are some sections and sentences that make you stop, shake your head, and wonder how anyone could be so skilled at expressing an idea or depicting a scene.

Yet, I'm surprised this won a Pulitzer.  It is imaginative and, in parts, very well written, but the focus is diffused.  Is it about the immigrant experience? first generation Americans? the erosion of Detroit? the Black Muslims? the tribulations of early love? confused identify? the residual of ancestors' sins? the sixties? familial jealousy and the long term effects of unrequited love? It would be fine if Calliope's saga was somehow the focal point of all of these segments, but while s/he narrates the novel the various pieces do not really coalesce.  

Most of Calliope's story takes place when she is a young teen, but the narrator is in his early 40s.   There are some references to what occurred between 15 and 40,  but not a good deal and considering the time spent on Calliope's experience in San Francisco and with "the Object"; and with his grandparents' migration to America, it would make sense that the evolution of Cal, should have gotten a bit more time.

The level of anatomical detail is far beyond what is necessary and while I get the gist about the complex factors that determine one's identity and sense of identity, was all the medical jargon and analysis necessary?  

And the real life figure of Wallace Fard somehow figuring in and transforming to a (peripheral) fictional character in the novel--seemed strange and unnecessary.   

I can't really recommend the read.  With all the great books out there, I think the 500 plus pages are not worth the effort.  Maybe the transgendered community would find the book informative, though there does seem to be a big difference between Calliope's story and those who are transgendered.

No comments:

Post a Comment