Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Listen To Me - Middlesex

Since my commute is what seems like a thousand hours long, I thought I'd share what I'm reading/listening to with you. Because I'm a giver.

Have you read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides yet?

Also, it evidently won the Pulitzer Prize.  Huh.  How about that.
What that hell are you waiting for?

I can't believe I've ignored people's recommendations and checked this out TWICE and never dived in.  It's very engrossing.


What's not to love?  Within the first few pages / chapters / minutes, you get:
A hermaphrodite
Brother / sister incest

It's all there!  Plus, a nice history of Detroit, and an immigrant story that rings true.

It took me forever to actually want to read this book, because it was so lauded as being important, which to me translated as dry.  

[Also, I was a afraid it was going to be like Middlemarch, by George Eliot, and I cannot, still, ever for the life of me get through that.

Penguin, stop being a liar.  There is nothing "popular" or "classic" about this book.  It just sucks.  Also, it's inexcusably long.  Kind of like this caption.  Which I can never figure out how to format correctly so it'll all fit nicely underneath the image.  Eh, now I'm writing like I'm George Eliot and want to inflict useless words on the world.  Must stop now.
There is no reason George Eliot should even be read, unless you want to induce a coma or anger against all things British as well as the printed word.  Just, don't.  Promise me you'll never read any Eliot.  It's all awful.]

But back to the actual book and my years-long reticence:  Actually, the whole hermaphrodite thing put me off from reading this book. It's not that I'm biased against hermaphrodites or anything.  Instead, I think the problem was that the people who recommended this book to me were very, very scholarly [think PhDs in literature and all that that entails; yes, including the baggy cardigans and earnest expressions] and I was afraid it was going to be some wretched treatise on the duality of man or something.

And it kind of is.

But it mostly isn't.

What it is, is a great story, an engrossing story.  I was hooked from the first sentence, which is not something that happens very often.  Which may mean nothing to you, but it should. Because I am the arbiter of taste, after all.

The story in Middlesex is not a straight narrative, which can be maddening if you don't just let yourself enjoy the loops and elides of it all.  I like the fact that it's storytelling, with all that that entails - when telling a story, when listening to a story, it seems like the best ones always back up or go off on tangents and add layers of meaning and knowledge to the listener. Plus, I cannot emphasize enough, this is not a dry treatise.  It's a really, really entertaining book.

The reader, Kristoffer Tabori, is perfect.  Absolutely, delightfully, wonderfully perfect.  His soft, gravelly voice has just a touch of an accent - enough that you can hear the Greek in his background.  It's a delight to listen to, it really is.  And his voice is addicting.  I kind of want to sit in my car and just listen to him.  And I seldom fade out while I'm driving- or if I do, I haven't noticed, which I guess is the same thing.

[This reticence reminds me of my reaction to Beloved.

Yes, I finally read it.  And yes, it was amazing.  But when I re-read it in grad school, after I had had the girl, it was excruciatingly painful to read.  I guess that's what makes great literature, that it grows and changes as you do.  Also - GHOST STORY!!
This came out when I was an undergrad, studying, yes, that's right, English Literature.  EVERYONE kept telling me to read it, that it was important and should immediately be part of the canon.  And I agree, it is important, and should be part of the canon.  But it took me FOREVER to read this, because again, English Lit scholars recommended it, and after trudging through Jane Eyre {which English Lit scholars ALSO recommend as somehow engrossing and genius, but which absolutely can suck it} there's only so much a girl can take.  They should have just told me that it was a ghost story, and I would have immediately jumped on it.]

So, to sum up:

Read Middlesex.
Do not read Middlemarch.
Hermaphrodites actually make for good literature.
[As do ghost stories.]

Speaking of reading, check out my latest post at Secret Society of List Addicts.  It's all about the printed word.

Had enough of the printed word?  Well, a picture is worth a thousand of them, so get your photo in to the latest Raw Photos Contest!  The theme is LOVE.  Come on, submit your photo.  Everyone needs to see what you love.


  1. Excellent. I've been waiting for something new and good to read. Although the incest may bother me a bit. :)

  2. I love your book reviews. I keep the titles in mind fir when I ever take a minute to read again.
    And Beloved was a good one. I read it years ago.

  3. I read Middlesex just last month. it was different from anything i have ever read. i loved it!

  4. I thought this book would be interesting because there was a hermaphrodite angle. I mean, you do not get to read about hermaphrodites every day. But I couldn't get into it. Maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. I'll try again based on your glowing recommendation. It's been sitting in my bedside pile for about 4 years and, of course, I recently gave it away. Luckily, I have a library card.

  5. I LOVED Middlesex! As I did, of course, Beloved. But I studied Toni Morrison's work extensively in college. AND....get ready to be jealous....I heard her speak when I was in Paris. that is an awesome lady right there. :)

  6. SUNIVERSE! I cannot believe you would check this out twice and never crack the cover. I am happy there's another Middlesex lover out there.

    When I was reading it, I left for class an hour early (!) so I could have distraction free reading time. A random girl walked up to me and said, "Omgiod. That is my favorite book! Ever! Wait until you get to the end! Squeee!" From there, she dissolved into a fangirl delirium. I must find this random girl and be her best friend now. Craigslist Missed Connection? That's my Middlesex story. :)

  7. ooh, middlesex was GREAT. it's been years since i've read it; i may have to revisit it over break...

  8. I liked Middlesex so much I read it twice. I grew up in Grosse Pointe, just blocks from the titular street. Part of my interest had to do with relating to that experience. I had a few small gripes, including the way in which Eugenides inserted the protagonist into so many of Detroit's historical moments, but overall it was a riveting story.
    I'll stay away from Middlemarch.

  9. Middlesex was a great read. Beloved made me feel like I ate too much acid in high school.

  10. I have tried reading "Beloved" so many times. SO MANY TIMES. I love Toni Morrison - she's my favorite author and everything! - and everyone raves that this is her best, but for some reason I cannot get my shit together and sink into it.


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