Sunday, January 9, 2011

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Book:   Middlesex

Author:  Jeffrey Eugenides

Grade:  C

Recommended To:  Book Clubs, people with a lot of time on their hands. 

I faithfully read (almost) every word of this book for a book club meeting and wished fervently that it had been 150 pages shorter.  I think this was a book that I was supposed to like because it received so much acclaim when it was released and even won the Pulitzer Prize(!), but evidently this is why I'm not on the committee that picks the Prize winners.  I would probably pick all espionage and spy novels instead of books that are actually "good." 

I recommend skipping this book for the following reasons:

1.  It was WAY too long.  If you don't know the premise of this book, it is about an intersexed (this is the PC term for hermaphrodite, thank you, Sister) individual's journey to self-discovery, but the book begins with a long and drawn out history of Cal's ancestors and the alleged reason why Cal was born intersexed.  This history took up the first 3/4 of the book and included some really ridiculous descriptions that went on for pages and pages.  Books like this generally rub me the wrong way See The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, I have a vivid imagination and prefer to exercise it over allowing the author to corral me into one stagnant image.

2.  The exciting stuff didn't happen until the end! Callie soon-to-become-Cal finally finds out that he's different from everyone else, runs away from home and joins a sex circus.  Ok, if you don't agree that that is the most interesting part of the book - then you are obviously a member of the Pulitzer Prize Committee.  Eugenides waited until the end of the book to even have Callie discover that she's different from other women and oh hey, wants to live as a man.

3.  Finally, there is a lot of criticism surrounding this book from the intersexed community.  Apparently, there is a lot of speculation and very little medical proof that incestuous ancestral relationships are actually ever the cause of hermaphroditism.  This gives the book a lack of authenticity and made me dislike the author for not researching it properly. 

I gave this book a C and think that it would be great for a book club read.  There are redeeming qualities about this book - it has some great themes, the end of the book is actually interesting, and it did provide a lot of fodder for my book club.  So, its not a total loss, though I still think that I should have a hand in picking the Pulitzer Prizes from now on. 

Happy Reading!

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