Friday, June 8, 2007

Oprah's latest pick - Middlesex

Oprah Winfrey announced the selection of her latest Book Club title (for the summer of 2007) a few days ago -- the somewhat controversial book Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.

Here's the jacket blurb:
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal."

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

Spanning eight decades and chronicling the wild ride of a Greek-American family through the vicissitudes of the twentieth century, Jeffrey Eugenides? witty, exuberant novel on one level tells a traditional story about three generations of a fantastic, absurd, lovable immigrant family -- blessed and cursed with generous doses of tragedy and high comedy.

But there's a provocative twist. Cal, the narrator -- also Callie -- is a hermaphrodite. And the explanation for this takes us spooling back in time, through a breathtaking review of the twentieth century, to 1922, when the Turks sacked Smyrna and Callie?s grandparents fled for their lives. Back to a tiny village in Asia Minor where two lovers, and one rare genetic mutation, set our narrator?s life in motion.

Middlesex is a grand, utterly original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire. It?s a brilliant exploration of divided people, divided families, divided cities and nations -- the connected halves that make up ourselves and our world. Justly acclaimed when it was released in Fall 2002, it announces the arrival of a major writer for our times.

So what do people think of this book?

3 comments:

majorbabs said...

An interesting choice and one I'm not sure will be the draw Oprah was hoping for. I'll be interested to hear the reaction.

so many books said...

I've tried reading this book about three times-the plot synopsis sounds so intriguing ! I don't know if it's the actually style of the writing, or slow pacing, but it really failed to capture me-unlike Eugenides' previous book,
"The Virgin Suicides", which I loved.

Arukiyomi said...

very very good book which I've reviewed HERE if you want Arukiyomi's take on it...