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Middlesex: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club)…
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Middlesex: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) (original 2002; edition 2002)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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20,35347273 (4.12)753
Member:treesap
Title:Middlesex: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club)
Authors:Jeffrey Eugenides
Info:Picador (2002), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 544 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:gender/sexuality

Work details

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)

  1. 101
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (sipthereader)
  2. 80
    Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (_debbie_)
    _debbie_: Both are (at least partially) historical novels with strong themes of identity, coming of age, and going against the mainstream to stay true to what you feel is right. Although one is set in Victorian England and the other isn't, they both have that same feel of rich language and descriptive place.… (more)
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    A Widow for One Year by John Irving (readerbabe1984)
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    The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (Othemts)
    Othemts: Multi-generational eccentric families, entrepreneurship, incest, the average made epic - yep, these books have it all!
  5. 83
    The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: share the same exquisite sense of setting: boring, but not terrible suburban America, second half of last century.
  6. 51
    As Nature Made Him by John Colapinto (librorumamans, librorumamans)
    librorumamans: The connection of this book to Middlesex is Eugenides' character, Dr Luce, who appears to be modelled on Dr John Money of Johns Hopkins University. As Nature Made Him is a non-fiction account of Money's experimental (and unsuccessful) sex reassignment of David Reimer, whose botched infant circumcision left him genitally mutilated. Both books compellingly look at the complexity of gender identity.… (more)
  7. 30
    Anywhere but Here by Mona Simpson (ainsleytewce)
    ainsleytewce: Both are very American stories, about families in the 20th century, fighting wars, starting businesses, raising families, and both feature a teenage protagonist.
  8. 41
    The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (ainsleytewce)
    ainsleytewce: Both begin with immigrants who come to America at approximately the same time.
  9. 30
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Anonymous user)
  10. 20
    Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City by Marjorie Housepian Dobkin (Anonymous user)
  11. 20
    How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States by Joanne Meyerowitz (jacr)
  12. 31
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (someproseandcons)
    someproseandcons: Both books are family and community sagas centered around secrets, and both books are carried by a strong and compelling voice.
  13. 64
    The Human Stain by Philip Roth (sarah-e)
    sarah-e: A character 'passes' in society - dealing with culture and identity.
  14. 21
    Annabel by Kathleen Winter (BookshelfMonstrosity, DawsonOakes)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Annabel follows the life of a hermaphrodite who was not masculine enough to please his father. The novel explores themes of family relations, gender roles, and sexual identity similar to those in Middlesex.
    DawsonOakes: While reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Annabel is a compelling and accomplished debut novel about one person’s struggle to discover the truth in a culture that shuns contradiction. Annabel offers some hard themes for readers. It is the story of an intersex child born in a remote coastal Labrador village in 1968. Primarily, I feel, Winter has written an homage to self-determination and self-preservation. An intersex child is born with atypical reproductive anatomy – both male and female anatomy are present. Advocates for intersex infants argue against surgical alterations of gentalia and reproductive organs being performed in order to accommodate societal expectations of what it means to be male or female in the world. This choice forms the centre of Winter’s novel.… (more)
  15. 10
    Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières (Booksloth)
  16. 22
    Intersex: A Perilous Difference by Morgan Holmes (boat-song)
    boat-song: Contains an amazing chapter on Eugenides and Middlesex, and for those interested in gender, a must read.
  17. 11
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2810michael)
  18. 11
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  19. 11
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    CGlanovsky: The destiny of an individual and a family bound up with that of a particular time and place.
  20. 00
    Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes by T Cooper (susanbooks)

(see all 28 recommendations)

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» See also 753 mentions

English (461)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  French (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (471)
Showing 1-5 of 461 (next | show all)
Mi rimane la nostalgia di Smirne, che mai piu' nessun occhio umano vedra'. Dopo l'incendio narrato è come se avessi avuto la consapevolezza tombale del passaggio del tempo.

Soggetto direi originale, molto complicato da narrare, a cui si aggiunge la difficoltà dell'etnia residente in un luogo lontano. Per maggiore difficoltà, tutto ciò dura un secolo, con continui rimandi e fughe.

Un testo che pare assomigliare ad una scommessa tra letterati, e che Eugenides vince, anche se di misura - a mio avviso. Forse per la lontananza e la peculiarità dei personaggi; forse per una costruzione che effettivamente è molto letteraria e poco reale; forse perche' sento di piu' l'intelligenza dell'autore che non la passione. Pulitzer ad ogni modo piu' che meritato. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
I bought a copy of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel from a charity shop, simply because the story is partly set in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, but came to love the weaving narrative and endearing characters on the author's own merit. In fact, I was sad to finish the book, but at least I can move onto The Virgin Suicides next!

Middlesex has elements of The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold for me, with the adult Calliope recounting her own life, and that of her parents and grandparents, while drawing on genetics, emigration and Greek mythology along the way. By the time Cal gets around to covering the double-meaning of the book's title, the reader feels they already know every member of the Stephanides family intimately. Like Milton's cufflinks, the blend of comedy and tragedy is perfectly balanced, with social commentary and family anecdotes grounding the central literary device in vivid reality.

Entertaining and engrossing; a novel truly deserving of becoming one of the 'Great Books' that Cal and his parents display with pride. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Dec 10, 2014 |
A really interesting subject, but frankly 80% if it was a bore! The small part that dealt with Callie / Cal was worthwhile and a timely reminder that many things in life are not black and white. I think a good editor would have helped! ( )
  Chris-86 | Dec 9, 2014 |
Overall, a very enjoyable coming of age novel -- with a big twist. Raised as a girl for the first 13+ years of his life, Cal realizes at puberty (with the help of a doctor's files) that he is genetically a male and decides to live the rest of his life as such. Nature vs. nurture, gender identity, and lots of cultural history in this beautiful novel. The story starts with Cal's grandparents fleeing the burning of Smyrna by the Turks and lands us in Detroit for the heyday through the riots and mass exodus to the suburbs. A bit slow-moving at times, a very grand effort that's pleasurable to read. ( )
  Randall.Hansen | Dec 9, 2014 |
When Jeffrey Eugenides set out to write Middlesex he wanted to “[tell] epic events in the third person and psychosexual events in the first person”. He had decided that the voice “had to render the experience of a teenage girl and an adult man, or an adult male-identified hermaphrodite”. This was no easy task; he had to seek expert advice about intersexuality, sexology, and the formation of gender identity. His motivation came from reading the 1980 memoir Herculine Barbin and being unsatisfied by the lack of detail about intersex anatomy and his emotions.

”I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

If you’ve read Jeffrey Eugenides before you will know he doesn’t just stop at one issue, Middlesex is also loosely based on his life and is used to explore his Greek Heritage. While the book’s main protagonist is Cal Stephanides, Middlesex is a family saga that explores the impact of a mutated gene over three generations. Starting with Cal’s grandparents, the novel looks at their escape from the ongoing Greco-Turkish War and emigrating from Smyrna in Asia Minor to the United States. This section has similar themes to most immigration stories, looking at Greek and US culture in the 1920’s as well as their efforts to assimilate into American society. However this is overshadowed by the fact that Cal’s grandparents are also brother and sister.

Middlesex continues to follow the Stephanides family through the story of Cal’s parents and eventually his life. While the reader gets glimpses of Cal’s life throughout the novel, the last part is where we really explore how the 5-alpha-reductase deficiency (a recessive condition that caused him to be born with female characteristics) impacted his life. While I got the impression that this was the main focus of the novel and to some extent it is, I was expecting to explore the struggle and emotions behind his condition to a greater extent.

Jeffrey Eugenides has a lot going on his novels and you really need to be a literary critic to enjoy Middlesex to the full extent. I love Eugenides because he is too smart for his own good, on a basic level you can enjoy his novels but there is so much going on underneath that rereading is almost essential. Middlesex is a family saga but there are elements of romance, history, coming of age and, because of his Greek heritage, tragicomedy. You could spend hours exploring the hysterical realism and metafictional aspects from this book. For example; does Cal’s condition have any bearing on where he is narrating this novel from? Berlin, a city that also was divided into two (East and West). Also, why does the narrative style switch between first and third person? Some parts of the story are told in first person but Cal would never have been able to recount what happened in that kind of detail. Is this to evoke confusion within the reader, forcing them to just feel a fraction of what Cal must be feeling?

This is an incredibly complex novel and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what Jeffrey Eugenides has done. This is in fact the third of his novels I’ve read and sadly that is all of them for now. While I did enjoy Middlesex I found more joy from The Virgin Suicides (which deals with suicide) and The Marriage Plot (dealing with mental illness). I really appreciate the themes Eugenides explores and the complexities of his novels, but personal opinion is going against the norm here. Middlesex is probably his most recognised novel; it even won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Don’t let the complexity of Middlesex put you off reading this fantastic novel; sure, there is a lot there but it still worth picking up. You can spend as much time as you want exploring its depths but in the end you’ll come away with something. It is a compelling read that will stay with you well after finishing it. This is the perfect type of novel to pick up for a book club.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/03/30/middlesex-by-jeffrey-eugenides/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 461 (next | show all)
This novel repeats the stand-out achievements of The Virgin Suicides: an ability to describe the horrible in a comic voice, an unusual form of narration and an eye for bizarre detail.
added by SqueakyChu | editGuardian, Mark Lawson (Oct 5, 2002)
 
Eugenides does such a superb job of capturing the ironies and trade-offs of assimilation that Calliope's evolution into Cal doesn't feel sudden at all, but more like a transformation we've been through ourselves.
 
Some of this footloose book is charming. Most of it is middling.
added by Shortride | editTime, Richard Lacayo (Sep 23, 2002)
 
His narrator is a soul who inhabits a liminal realm, a creature able to bridge the divisions that plague humanity, endowed with ''the ability to communicate between the genders, to see not with the monovision of one sex but in the stereoscope of both.'' That utopian reach makes ''Middlesex'' deliriously American; the novel's patron saint is Walt Whitman, and it has some of the shagginess of that poet's verse to go along with the exuberance. But mostly it is a colossal act of curiosity, of imagination and of love.
 
''Middlesex'' is a novel about roots and rootlessness. (The middle-sex, middle-ethnic, middle-American DNA twists are what move Cal to Berlin; the author now lives there too.) But the writing itself is also about mixing things up, grafting flights of descriptive fancy with hunks of conversational dialogue, pausing briefly to sketch passing characters or explain a bit of a bygone world.

''The Virgin Suicides'' is all of a piece, contained within the boundaries of one neighborhood; ''Middlesex'' -- a strange Scheherazade of a book -- is all in pieces, as all big family stories are, bursting the boundaries of logic.
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eugenides, Jeffreyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nilsson, Hans-JacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tabori, KristofferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Yama, who comes from a different gene pool entirely
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I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.
Quotations
"Don't you think it would have been easier just to stay the way you were?"
I lifted my face and looked into my mother's eyes. And I told her: "This is the way I was."
The textbook publishers would make sure to cover my face. The black box: a fig leaf in reverse, concealing identity while leaving shame exposed.
Historical fact: people stopped being human in 1913. That was the year Henry Ford put his cars on rollers and made his workers adopt the speed of the assembly line. At first, the workers rebelled. They quit in droves, unable to accustom their bodies to the new pace of the age. Since then, adaptation has been passed down: we've all inherited it to some degree, so that we plug right into joysticks and remotes, to repetitive motions of a hundred kinds.

But in 1922 it was still a new thing to be a machine.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Three generations of a Greek American family find themselves plagued by a mutant gene which causes bizarre side effects in the family's teenage girls.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312427735, Paperback)

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." And so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the "roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time." The odd but utterly believable story of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as Calliope, is at the tender heart of this long-awaited second novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, whose elegant and haunting 1993 debut, The Virgin Suicides, remains one of the finest first novels of recent memory.

Eugenides weaves together a kaleidoscopic narrative spanning 80 years of a stained family history, from a fateful incestuous union in a small town in early 1920s Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit; from the early days of Ford Motors to the heated 1967 race riots; from the tony suburbs of Grosse Pointe and a confusing, aching adolescent love story to modern-day Berlin. Eugenides's command of the narrative is astonishing. He balances Cal/Callie's shifting voices convincingly, spinning this strange and often unsettling story with intelligence, insight, and generous amounts of humor:

Emotions, in my experience aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." … I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." ... 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.

When you get to the end of this splendorous book, when you suddenly realize that after hundreds of pages you have only a few more left to turn over, you'll experience a quick pang of regret knowing that your time with Cal is coming to a close, and you may even resist finishing it--putting it aside for an hour or two, or maybe overnight--just so that this wondrous, magical novel might never end. --Brad Thomas Parsons

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:33 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Calliope's friendship with a classmate and her sense of identity are compromised by the adolescent discovery that she is a hermaphrodite, a situation with roots in her grandparents' desperate struggle for survival in the 1920s.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 9 descriptions

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