I quite enjoyed reading this book. It's set up like an autobiography/memoir/family history with an omniscient narrator. The story follows the StephaniI quite enjoyed reading this book. It's set up like an autobiography/memoir/family history with an omniscient narrator. The story follows the Stephanides family through 8 decades as their unique story unfolds and intersects with historical events (the burning of Smyrna, the founding of the Nation of Islam, the burning of Detroit). When I put it this way, it reminds me of Don DeLillo's Underworld, but to me, Middlesex was much more personal, more enotional than Underworld. The characters are as complex as the story; nothing in this book is as it seems on the surface. Themes keep reappearing in different contexts, revealing more and more about the characters and situations. Middlesex is a study in duality--male and female, black and white, life and death, hope and despair--and the often murky distinctions in between.
Several years ago I watched a documentary about people born between genders and since then have often wondered how both the cultural and biological genders we're assigned influence each of us. Middlesex really helped me to see this in a different, more personal light. I have a feeling this book is going to stick with me long after I return it to the library....more
I got the book and DVD set and found the two together to be incredibly helpful in teaching my daughter ASL signs. Some of those first signs are very sI got the book and DVD set and found the two together to be incredibly helpful in teaching my daughter ASL signs. Some of those first signs are very subtle, and seeing the DVD really helped me recognize when she was trying to make a sign versus when she was just kind of moving her hands around. Signing really enriched our interactions and reduced frustration in those pre-verbal months. She's nearly three now and quite verbal, but there are still a few signs she uses, sometimes for novelty, sometimes for emphasis, and sometimes because she's feeling shy and doesn't want to say "thank you" out loud to a stranger....more
The authors in this book encourage parents to work with their children and make up their own signs. This might be an effective approach for some familThe authors in this book encourage parents to work with their children and make up their own signs. This might be an effective approach for some families, but it wasn't for us. For one, I could never remember the signs we made up. Having set ASL signs helped give me a reference to remind me what I was teaching my daughter so I could be consistent. Also, my daughter has signing cousins and it was important to me that she learn actual ASL signs so she could communicate with them (in baby talk, of course). I loved signing with my daughter, but this book wasn't the right approach for my family. I preferred Sign with Your Baby, by Joseph Garcia....more
Reading Sarah Vowell was like having a conversation with a kindred spirit. I felt better about knowing scads of random facts and feel almost ready toReading Sarah Vowell was like having a conversation with a kindred spirit. I felt better about knowing scads of random facts and feel almost ready to be unapologetic about being a nerd (almost). And I felt comforted that Vowell, someone who obviously knows a great number of facts and has a good handle on history and our place in it, has also confused Sinclair Lewis with Upton Sinclair (I'd been secretly fearing that my mixing up the two once was evidence of my being a dolt. I suppose the fact that Vowell mixed them up doesn't negate that possibility, but it certainly eases my mind).
I laughed out loud at many passages, like her description of the e-mail discussion group in which she participated during the 2000 presidential campaign: "We were a sort of homegrown talk show, where one person would state an opinion and then everyone else would go McLaughlin Group on his a**."
And I completely related to her when she likened living in San Francisco as "living under quarantine in some euthanized, J. Crew catalog parallel universe of healthy good looks." Of course, she loves New York City, which I find unreal in its own way, but I don't need to agree with her on everything.
She also got me thinking about politics, the nature of the media, and about what it means to be an American. I didn't always agree with her, but it was fun to think about these things without getting all bogged down and needing to retreat into network television like I usually do after pondering these topics....more
The first-person plural narrator was a little off-putting at first, but I really enjoyed the story of these sisters seen from the perspective of theirThe first-person plural narrator was a little off-putting at first, but I really enjoyed the story of these sisters seen from the perspective of their peers in their up-scale neighborhood. I like the way Eugenides juxtaposes the gradual degradation of Detroit with the smaller-scale degradation of a family, a house, and, finally, a community. If I were still an English major, I would write a paper about the parallels between the two (especially about the way the media first has nothing to say about the story, then concocts from the outside the explanations that those living with the reality eventually accept). But I'm a busy, tired mom now and have to content myself with reading and thinking about novels then writing snippets about them on Goodreads....more
I almost gave this book 5 stars. After taking a while to warm up to the story and almost putting it aside a few times, I found that after about 150 paI almost gave this book 5 stars. After taking a while to warm up to the story and almost putting it aside a few times, I found that after about 150 pages, I couldn't put it down. During those first 150 pages, I couldn't relate to or find anything I cared about in the characters. I found them a little tiresome and confusing. I only kept reading because of Oates' prose style, which I find fluid and very appealing, and my experiences with Oates' work in the past, which have so far never disappointed (and also because I really dislike leaving books unfinished). Maybe I just had to get to know the characters, because I really connected with them by the end. The progession of the characters through their lives made sense to me, even as their lives took turns that weren't quite what I expected. But caring about and understanding the characters is part of why I ended up giving the book 4 stars.
Reading Oates' stories, I find myself really understanding the appeal of the unrealistic happy ending. Oates gives an accurate representation of the confusion and disappointment that comes when life doesn't live up to expectations. But sometimes when I willingly suspend my disbelief to delve into a novel, I want the story to not seem so true, and to be a little less ambiguous than life often is. Maybe it's not fair to give a 5-star quality book a 4 just because I'm in the mood for a rainbow in my rain storm, but that's what I've done....more
When I first read this book, I remember liking it, but I don't remember why I liked it. I also remember being very confused about what the heck was goWhen I first read this book, I remember liking it, but I don't remember why I liked it. I also remember being very confused about what the heck was going on. This second reading---now that I've also read The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam---made a lot more sense, but I liked it less. Maybe it was just a let-down after how awesome The Year of the Flood was, but Jimmy just wasn't that interesting as a narrator. It's like if I wrote down my life story. There's some interesting stuff in there, but mostly it's full of hang-ups and regrets and it's all just tangential to the lives of those who are really doing stuff.
As Atwood writes about Jimmy, "He'd grown up in walled spaces, and then had become one. He had shut things out."
Jimmy kind of reminded me of Ed Norton's character in Fight Club before Tyler Durden came into his life, with Jimmy's organized bathroom shelves and his general contentedness with just being mediocre. I suppose Crake could have been Jimmy's Tyler Durden, except that rather than bringing a new level of awesome out of Jimmy, Crake just manipulated his innate non-awesomeness for Crake's own purposes.
I didn't realize it on my first reading of this book, but Jimmy/Snowman is kind of a Joseph. Here's this huge, world-altering plan going on around him. His nearest and dearest are in on it, but it's all a secret to him. He doesn't bring the plan into existence, but he's the one who's left to take care of things.
After this reading, I feel a small urge to re-read the other two books again, but I think it would be more to look for the bits of the story that Atwood doesn't tell than it would be to enjoy the books themselves again....more
Wow. I really liked Kafka on the Shore, but this one is even better. Like Kafka, Wind-Up Bird deals a lot with perception, reality, and where the twoWow. I really liked Kafka on the Shore, but this one is even better. Like Kafka, Wind-Up Bird deals a lot with perception, reality, and where the two meet. Intriguing mix of history, the supernatural, and personal relationship struggles. Fate rolls along and "ordinary" people get caught up in it. I felt transported to Murakami's world, which is always the top factor for me in determining how good a work of fiction is....more
Both The Kite Runner and this book are absolutely beautiful books. Hosseini paints this lush and vivid picture of the beauty of Afghanistan and then cBoth The Kite Runner and this book are absolutely beautiful books. Hosseini paints this lush and vivid picture of the beauty of Afghanistan and then contrasts this image with the violence and brutality of the past several decades there. I normally picture that entire region of the world as arid and empty, the landscape itself hostile and unwelcoming.
Hosseini shows us the beauty of the region, helps us love the area just as his characters love it, so that our hearts break along with theirs when their land becomes unrecognizable to them.
This is an emotionally difficult book. It starts out bleak, and just when I thought things couldn't get any worse for the characters, they get worse, and worse again. But through all of the deceit and oppression and fear, the characters still are able to carve some semblance of a happy life, like a lone flower forcing its way up through a crack in pavement. They show what it's like to choose dignity in the face of those whose aim is to defile.
I sat on my comfy sofa under my electric lamp with a snack, a cat, and a glass of wine beside me, the rest of my family snuggled warm in their beds while I read these scenes of desolation, deprivation, and violence. I had an urge to get rid of most all of my possessions and to take better care of those that were left. I wanted to clean the kitchen and hug my children. I felt acutely the privilege with which I've grown up as a member of the American middle class. I felt gratitude tinged with shame.
This was a thoroughly satisfying read for me. The scenes of this book I'm certain will continue playing out in my mind for a long time to come....more
I found the first half of the book to be a little slow, but necessary set-up for the second half, which I couldn't put down. I won't go into details bI found the first half of the book to be a little slow, but necessary set-up for the second half, which I couldn't put down. I won't go into details because I don't want to spoil anything, but there was a point in the second half when I thought he could have ended it earlier and in a more interesting fashion (there was one too many twists for me). The ending was OK, but it seemed to kind of just peter out.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book. Before I read it, I really didn't have a mental picture of Afghanistan; I'm glad to have one, even if it does come from a work of fiction....more