Review: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

(Read in Oct-Dec 2012)

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I didn’t like the writing, the drawn-out plot, the clumsy symbolism (explained on the page!) or the erratic translation. I really dislike this manipulative scheme authors these days utilise wherein you take the culture of your emigrant parents or grandparents, exoticise it for an American audience to the point of removing all real-life resemblance, accentuating the horrendous parts of its history and the weird parts of its customs and making no mention of anything remotely average or mundane, and profit. By profit I mean reap awards and glazed-eyed applause from the enlightened literati of the world. I lose all faith in contemporary literary authority if this is what passes for profound with them these days. I’m convinced this Magical Other crap that the west swallows up like hot buns is the sole reason for including the grandparents’ very detailed history in a book that’s supposed to be about a boy and his sexual identity awakening.

I wasn’t convinced by Cal’s story either. There’s a brief mention that unlike other people with his condition, he never felt uncomfortable in his birth-assigned sex, but there’s no explanation provided as to why – neither directly, nor through other literary means. I was uncomfortable with the suggestion that sexual orientation is somehow ties to sexual identity, and that a doctor who specialises in sex and gender would believe that and use attraction to one sex and not the other as a criterion for determining the sex of his patient.

The very brief story of 41-year-old Cal is also unsatisfactory. He finally finds love, but why? What makes Julie special? No mention.

Basically it’s little more than a badly assembled pile of popular literary tropes without much weight behind them. It reads like the work of a skilled amateur and that’s not my thing.

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