10.14.2014

Middlesex

I stayed away from Middlesex for many years, daunted by the length and a fuzzy idea that it was about a hermaphrodite. In other words, I was an idiot. I loved it!

It is about much more than Callie's and Cal's story. It is the story of three generations: grandparents leaving Greece for America, parents struggling to make a name for themselves in the U.S., and the childhood and adolescence of the children that inherit these tales. (Sidenote: every time I think of "coming-of-age" tales now, I giggle thinking of my brother-in-law grimacing at some movie my sister has picked out. My affinity for such stories runs in the family.) Through the multi-generational story of the Stephanides clan, the story of 20th century Detroit is also told. The novel is ambitious in scope.

Elements of the book that resonated with me:

  • Sourmelina, in the closet: "I went to church. It didn't help. In those days that was the best place to meet a girlfriend. In church! All of us praying to be different." 
  • Callie: "Is there anything as incredible as the love story of your own parents?"
  • Acculturation to American society: I believe my mom wrestled with sentiments like the one below growing up; it may have been a driving force in her own story line (and she was already the 3rd generation!) 
But now the Bracelets' upturned noses suggested that there was another America to which we could never gain admittance. All of a sudden America wasn't about hamburgers and hot rods anymore. It was about the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. It was about something that had happened for two minutes four hundred years ago, instead of everything that had happened since.
    • See also: "Generally speaking, Americans like their presidents to have no more than two vowels...If they have more than two vowels (Reagan), they can have no more than two syllables."
  • Grandmother and link to the old world: "I'm not sure, with a grandmother like mine, if you can ever become a true American in the sense of believing that life is about the pursuit of happiness," and "Everything about Middlesex spoke of forgetting and everything about Desdemona made plain the inescapability of remembering." 
  • A gorgeous passage of Callie and childhood friend Clementine playing in a pool when they are about 7 or 8, too long to quote fully here: "Steam envelops us, cloaks us; light sparkles on the agitated water; and we keep spinning, so that at some point I'm not sure which hands are mine, which legs."
  • The references to Greek mythology, with prophecies, family feuds, and changing forms aplenty

No comments: