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Bill_T
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First Impressions

Just starting Middlesex? What's striking you about this tale? What do you make of Cal's narrative voice? Of the author's choices as he sets the stage for this generation-spanning tale? What's your first impression of this celebrated novel?
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LaurenKondrat
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Re: First Impressions

I just started Middlesex a few days ago, and I have to say, it definitely is different than anything I have ever read. Not only the subject matter, but also the style in which it is written. I had a hard time getting into the book; because of all the background that is necessary to get to the story that is now developing (I am about halfway through book 2) I found myself reading just to get past the past. As an avid reader though, I can appreciate the foundation Eugenides is building when he explains how the narrator came to be. Afterall, without this information, we would not, as the reader fully understand the reasoning and actions as well as the culture of the main character.

I also think it is interesting how Eugenides is able to diminish any predispositions you might have starting the book. When I read the part about Lefty going into the church and begging for Des not to find out, Eugenides had me tricked; I thought he was going to be gay...as in the time of 1922 this was a hush hush thing. So when it turns out he is in love with his sister, I was shocked. As an English teacher, usually I can see this stuff coming, not this time!

Somehow though, the tender voice of Cal has allowed me to be happy for his grandparents love, though under normal circumstances I would be horrified by it. I think it is the way it is told, the explanations behind the actions, and the constant reminder that nothing is stronger than raw, human emotion. When it comes down to it, you just can't help how you feel. I can't wait to see how the story and characters develop throughout the rest of the story.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions (Possible Spoilers)



LaurenKondrat wrote:
I just started Middlesex a few days ago, and I have to say, it definitely is different than anything I have ever read. Not only the subject matter, but also the style in which it is written. I had a hard time getting into the book; because of all the background that is necessary to get to the story that is now developing (I am about halfway through book 2) I found myself reading just to get past the past. As an avid reader though, I can appreciate the foundation Eugenides is building when he explains how the narrator came to be. Afterall, without this information, we would not, as the reader fully understand the reasoning and actions as well as the culture of the main character.

I also think it is interesting how Eugenides is able to diminish any predispositions you might have starting the book. When I read the part about Lefty going into the church and begging for Des not to find out, Eugenides had me tricked; I thought he was going to be gay...as in the time of 1922 this was a hush hush thing. So when it turns out he is in love with his sister, I was shocked. As an English teacher, usually I can see this stuff coming, not this time!

Somehow though, the tender voice of Cal has allowed me to be happy for his grandparents love, though under normal circumstances I would be horrified by it. I think it is the way it is told, the explanations behind the actions, and the constant reminder that nothing is stronger than raw, human emotion. When it comes down to it, you just can't help how you feel. I can't wait to see how the story and characters develop throughout the rest of the story.




I completely agree. The "forbidden" love doesn't seem all that unnatural especially under the circumstances -- essentially orphans in a war torn country.
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JesseBC
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Re: First Impressions

I read Middlesex a few years ago and it's one of my second-tier favorite books.

Despite that, I had a hard time getting into it at the beginning. I think Eugenides was trying to produce an epic feel and, comparing it to Virgin Suicides or even the last half of Middlesex, I'm not sure Eugenides does well with epic.

I'm reading Pride and Prejudice this month for another discussion so I won't be re-reading Middlesex for this one, but I'm looking forward to discussing it. I'm not convinced one must be bisexual to fully appreciate this novel, though it seems to help :-)




Bill_T wrote:
Just starting Middlesex? What's striking you about this tale? What do you make of Cal's narrative voice? Of the author's choices as he sets the stage for this generation-spanning tale? What's your first impression of this celebrated novel?


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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions



JesseBC wrote:
I read Middlesex a few years ago and it's one of my second-tier favorite books.

Despite that, I had a hard time getting into it at the beginning. I think Eugenides was trying to produce an epic feel and, comparing it to Virgin Suicides or even the last half of Middlesex, I'm not sure Eugenides does well with epic.

I'm reading Pride and Prejudice this month for another discussion so I won't be re-reading Middlesex for this one, but I'm looking forward to discussing it. I'm not convinced one must be bisexual to fully appreciate this novel, though it seems to help :-)




Bill_T wrote:
Just starting Middlesex? What's striking you about this tale? What do you make of Cal's narrative voice? Of the author's choices as he sets the stage for this generation-spanning tale? What's your first impression of this celebrated novel?







I've heard a few people state that it was hard to get into the novel at the beginning. I'd agree, but only up to about the first 30 or so pages, and then it really starts to sail.
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions



PaulH wrote:


JesseBC wrote:
I read Middlesex a few years ago and it's one of my second-tier favorite books.

Despite that, I had a hard time getting into it at the beginning. I think Eugenides was trying to produce an epic feel and, comparing it to Virgin Suicides or even the last half of Middlesex, I'm not sure Eugenides does well with epic.

I'm reading Pride and Prejudice this month for another discussion so I won't be re-reading Middlesex for this one, but I'm looking forward to discussing it. I'm not convinced one must be bisexual to fully appreciate this novel, though it seems to help :-)




Bill_T wrote:
Just starting Middlesex? What's striking you about this tale? What do you make of Cal's narrative voice? Of the author's choices as he sets the stage for this generation-spanning tale? What's your first impression of this celebrated novel?







I've heard a few people state that it was hard to get into the novel at the beginning. I'd agree, but only up to about the first 30 or so pages, and then it really starts to sail.




OK PaulH..maybe you can help..this is not a subject matter that I would most likely read so maybe I am challenged in this regard. I have started the novel and am already wondering where he is going with this but from reading the previous posts, I take Calliope is both Calliope and Cal (ok I get the meaning for Middlesex); now why does he call his brother Chapter Eleven? I suspect that the book is saying that this individual finds that he is attractive to both sexes and he doesn't or didn't understand to which gender camp he belonged. Am I following this so far? I think I may have more questions and will stick them in this segment until I get pass page 30.

Bentley
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions (The Silver Spoon and Matchmaking)



Bill_T wrote:
Just starting Middlesex? What's striking you about this tale? What do you make of Cal's narrative voice? Of the author's choices as he sets the stage for this generation-spanning tale? What's your first impression of this celebrated novel?




I have gotten through the first chapters "The Silver Spoon" and "Matchmaking". Having read the interview which I posted in the Community Room, it helped me form a foundation for the story early on. There is so much to discuss in these first two chapters that I do not know where to begin. It is a story of an hermaphrodite. Calliope Helen Stephanides who was born a girl in 1960; who became Cal in 1974. But it is also a story of genealogy, ancestry, families and an odd kind of love. A love which is horrific; but described in such a way that it comes across as innocent.

How Eugenides is able to achieve this is pure talent as a writer. I think his writing style is superb and the way he tells this story though confusing at first, lends itself to understanding the themes and the impact of the events on the narrator herself/himself. The subject matter though foreign to me is told by an exceptional writer which makes all of the difference.

Cal is the narrator and even narrates the story prefetally. He states on page nine, "Of course, a narrator in my position (prefetal at the time) can't be entirely sure about any of this."

Eugenides uses techniques used in Greek epics and weaves these tales together (sometimes these are confusing to the reader) but on second glance reveal the themes of the book itself.

And Eugendites is very funny.

I could picture Cal's grandmother Desdemona at 57. It could be the description of anybody's ethnic grandmother and I am certain many people have smiled. "At 57, with her short, squat figure and intimidating hairnet, my grandmother was perfectly designed for blocking people's paths." Who can't think of their own grandmother or great Aunt?

And Cal describing the courtship of his mother Tessie: "She didn't surrender until after Japan had." (smile) Or in relating the story about the thermometer and his father Milton: "What do you think this is, Milt, the Olympics?" And the story of the egg cracking game, very funny.

And blended into the humor was the deviancy, the miscreant genes and the problems with gene selection. The book not only explains genetics; but also how gender can become cross wired.

The acts of Desdemona and Lefty (the name in itself sort of gives it away) seem incestuous but are explained away by the author as a situation of the time and a result of events which put these two into that tough spot. Their love was real even if it was misplaced like the genes and/or part of the cause of the result: Calliope/Cal.

So far, I am plowing through Book One and glad that I got this far.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions (The Silver Spoon and Matchmaking)



bentley wrote:


Bill_T wrote:
Just starting Middlesex? What's striking you about this tale? What do you make of Cal's narrative voice? Of the author's choices as he sets the stage for this generation-spanning tale? What's your first impression of this celebrated novel?




I have gotten through the first chapters "The Silver Spoon" and "Matchmaking". Having read the interview which I posted in the Community Room, it helped me form a foundation for the story early on. There is so much to discuss in these first two chapters that I do not know where to begin. It is a story of an hermaphrodite. Calliope Helen Stephanides who was born a girl in 1960; who became Cal in 1974. But it is also a story of genealogy, ancestry, families and an odd kind of love. A love which is horrific; but described in such a way that it comes across as innocent.

How Eugenides is able to achieve this is pure talent as a writer. I think his writing style is superb and the way he tells this story though confusing at first, lends itself to understanding the themes and the impact of the events on the narrator herself/himself. The subject matter though foreign to me is told by an exceptional writer which makes all of the difference.

Cal is the narrator and even narrates the story prefetally. He states on page nine, "Of course, a narrator in my position (prefetal at the time) can't be entirely sure about any of this."

Eugenides uses techniques used in Greek epics and weaves these tales together (sometimes these are confusing to the reader) but on second glance reveal the themes of the book itself.

And Eugendites is very funny.

I could picture Cal's grandmother Desdemona at 57. It could be the description of anybody's ethnic grandmother and I am certain many people have smiled. "At 57, with her short, squat figure and intimidating hairnet, my grandmother was perfectly designed for blocking people's paths." Who can't think of their own grandmother or great Aunt?

And Cal describing the courtship of his mother Tessie: "She didn't surrender until after Japan had." (smile) Or in relating the story about the thermometer and his father Milton: "What do you think this is, Milt, the Olympics?" And the story of the egg cracking game, very funny.

And blended into the humor was the deviancy, the miscreant genes and the problems with gene selection. The book not only explains genetics; but also how gender can become cross wired.

The acts of Desdemona and Lefty (the name in itself sort of gives it away) seem incestuous but are explained away by the author as a situation of the time and a result of events which put these two into that tough spot. Their love was real even if it was misplaced like the genes and/or part of the cause of the result: Calliope/Cal.

So far, I am plowing through Book One and glad that I got this far.




From the sounds of this post, Bentley, you sound like you're right in the flow of things. Glad you're enjoying it!
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions - Chapter Eleven

I am still perplexed by Cal calling his brother chapter eleven. Is he referring to the chapter in the book or something else?
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions - Chapter Eleven



bentley wrote:
I am still perplexed by Cal calling his brother chapter eleven. Is he referring to the chapter in the book or something else?




To be honest, Eugenides as far as I can tell, never reveals the origin or meaning of Cal's brother's name. Hopefully someone here has inferred some insight into it?
Melissa_W
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Re: First Impressions - Chapter Eleven

[ Edited ]
I also was a little confused about Chapter Eleven's name - I asked Eugenides about it while he was signing it. He smiled and gave me a very odd look. "Did you finish the book?" I nodded. "Think about it for a little while. What happens to Chapter Eleven in the book?" he said. So I thought for about 2 seconds and then the light bulb clicked on. :smileyhappy: Boy did I feel pretty sheepish.

If I tell you what it means, it will spoil part of the book. So I won't tell right now. :smileytongue:



PaulH wrote:


bentley wrote:
I am still perplexed by Cal calling his brother chapter eleven. Is he referring to the chapter in the book or something else?




To be honest, Eugenides as far as I can tell, never reveals the origin or meaning of Cal's brother's name. Hopefully someone here has inferred some insight into it?



Message Edited by pedsphleb on 06-11-2007 01:07 PM
Melissa W.
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions - Chapter Eleven


pedsphleb wrote:
I also was a little confused about Chapter Eleven's name - I asked Eugenides about it while he was signing it. He smiled and gave me a very odd look. "Did you finish the book?" I nodded. "Think about it for a little while. What happens to Chapter Eleven in the book?" he said. So I thought for about 2 seconds and then the light bulb clicked on. :smileyhappy: Boy did I feel pretty sheepish.

If I tell you what it means, it will spoil part of the book. So I won't tell right now. :smileytongue:



PaulH wrote:


bentley wrote:
I am still perplexed by Cal calling his brother chapter eleven. Is he referring to the chapter in the book or something else?




To be honest, Eugenides as far as I can tell, never reveals the origin or meaning of Cal's brother's name. Hopefully someone here has inferred some insight into it?



Message Edited by pedsphleb on 06-11-2007 01:07 PM




Thanks Paul and pedsphleb...at least as I continue the journey if I still don't know by the end of the book..I will be able to ask you. Hope I figure it out..but thanks for the hint that Eugenides gave you.

Bentley
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions - Chapter Eleven

[ Edited ]

pedsphleb wrote:
I also was a little confused about Chapter Eleven's name - I asked Eugenides about it while he was signing it. He smiled and gave me a very odd look. "Did you finish the book?" I nodded. "Think about it for a little while. What happens to Chapter Eleven in the book?" he said. So I thought for about 2 seconds and then the light bulb clicked on. :smileyhappy: Boy did I feel pretty sheepish.

If I tell you what it means, it will spoil part of the book. So I won't tell right now. :smileytongue:







Thanks for the help Melissa!


Message Edited by PaulH on 06-11-2007 02:46 PM
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CallMeLeo
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Re: First Impressions

My First Impressions are one, I'm in the hands of a great storyteller; two, that Des's and Lefty's incestuous relationship makes me very uncomfortable - an obvious human error that will have future repercussions; and three, that the allied ships watching Smyrna burn and people suffer without lifting a finger to help because they want to protect their oil interests is inhuman.
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bentley
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Re: First Impressions


CallMeLeo wrote:
My First Impressions are one, I'm in the hands of a great storyteller; two, that Des's and Lefty's incestuous relationship makes me very uncomfortable - an obvious human error that will have future repercussions; and three, that the allied ships watching Smyrna burn and people suffer without lifting a finger to help because they want to protect their oil interests is inhuman.




After reading further and rereading, I realized how much I really do not know about the subject of this book. It is chock full not only of ancient Greek mythology and references to gods, goddesses, philosophers and Greek epic writers; but also filled to the brim with genetic disorders which thankfully I was not aware of. The subject matter also made me uncomfortable and I have to agree with all of the points made by CallMeLeo. I found to understand the book; one had to look up and understand the references that were made by the author and the reader had to make an attempt to understand the genetic disorders at least ostensibly. I do not think that this is an easy read. I would sum it up as being the best book that I have ever read about a wierd and uncomfortable subject.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions

I'd agree. The novel is chock full of, for me at least, lesser known subjects, but that's what's making it so fun and interesting.
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karolescott
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Re: First Impressions

"Middlesex" is a bit difficult to immerse oneself in immediately, but if you really commit to reading the detail and history in the first few chapters, trust me, you will be well-rewarded by being unable to put the book down a bit later.
Fascinating, heartfelt, truly inspiring in many ways, it is a book which haunted me for days after finishing. It is foreign subject matter to most people I would guess, but so touching in its basic humanness that one can empathize fully with Cal(lie). This is one of the more compelling books I have read in a long time.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: First Impressions

It's certainly qualifies as a super deep tome.



karolescott wrote:
"Middlesex" is a bit difficult to immerse oneself in immediately, but if you really commit to reading the detail and history in the first few chapters, trust me, you will be well-rewarded by being unable to put the book down a bit later.
Fascinating, heartfelt, truly inspiring in many ways, it is a book which haunted me for days after finishing. It is foreign subject matter to most people I would guess, but so touching in its basic humanness that one can empathize fully with Cal(lie). This is one of the more compelling books I have read in a long time.


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