Pulitzer Prize Winning Fiction Project discussion

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Middlesex

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message 1: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 5 comments Jeffrey Eugenides' "Middlesex" is a "story of a single gene through time" (pg4). The story is a autobiography of the recessive mutation of Caliope Helen Stephanides's fifth chromosome. This loose chromosome reveals itself in Cal/Caliope who is born a girl and, at puberty, matures into a man. But, the story is much more than a sexy look into the strange life of a hermaphradite. It spins the story of a melting pot of science and a family tree (in this case, a mulberry one). In the end, the family story, the one predicted by yia yia's spoon, is the important story and explanation behind the main character, with science taking a very distant back seat.

The root of the story begins with Lefty and Desdemona, Cal's grandparents, in Smyrna. Very little insight into Cal/Caliope is provided throughout book one and two of the novel. Both characters are given depth, but Desdemona carries just as much, if not more, character weight than anyone else in the novel. With their migration into the US and into their new family roles, we learn about Milton and Tessie, Cal's parents. In this case, Milton is, by far, the more developed character, as the loose gene is carried with him. In book three, the young Caliope is nurtured in the cacoon of her family home on Middlesex (rd/ln/drive) and the mature Cal is born in book four. I believe the silkworm is a sybmol of that loose fifth chromosome, plucked out of the mulberry tree in Smyrna and transplanted in Detroit.

Sound and smell are powerful sources of imagery and symbolism in the novel. The sound of Lefty singing American songs stir's Desdemona's fear of being alone and eventually succombing to incest; Milton's horn serenade to Tessie awakens her sexual desire and is symbolic of their courtship. The smell of the silkworm hut in Smyrna; the hashish in the grandparents' room; the smell of the New York hotel room; all of these pungent, old world smells take the reader back to Smyrna, where it all began.

I love that the author wrote himself in the novel, quoting Waste Land (pg50) and that he named Cal's brother, Chapter 11, the meaning which is revealed late in the novel; Jimmy Zizmo is the most interesting secondary character and probably has more symbolic meaning than I fully realize now.

Ulimately, the novel is a blend of genders, cultures and nations. When you get to the end of it, you really aren't that interested anymore in the hermaphrodite.

A very good read.


message 2: by Angela (new)

Angela Wynne | 14 comments Sounds cool!


message 3: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan | 3 comments "Middlesex" is one of my favorites of the Pulitzer winners. I like how the metaphor of change and adapting is applied not just to the protagonist's body, but to the other characters: the conflict of old vs. new, Greek vs. American, male vs. female, etc. I wish Cal's relationship with his lover was expanded upon, but that's a minor qualm. I love the ending especially and how it ties everything together.

This is a must read.


message 4: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (tikki_nik2) | 3 comments I read this book a few yrs ago and found it was fantastic and so unique. I have never found anything like it since. Strongly recommend!


message 5: by Mari (new)

Mari | 3 comments I finished this book recently, and I enjoyed it. I did not give it but 4 stars due to the 2 attempts that it took me to get through it. I got bored in the family h history about a third of the way through. The second time I listened to the audio book and it added enrichment for me to the characters due to the voices and storytelling. The subject matter along with the direction the story went made this book uniquely special for me.


message 6: by Gail (new)

Gail P (yhgail) I thought this was a truly exceptional book. The author was able to tell an awkward, misunderstood aspect of human existence and cast it into an interesting story with believable characters.


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