Friday, March 21, 2008
MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides
I read almost exclusively in public places ... the Metro, the atrium in my building, a park bench, a bar stool. Recently I have noticed that I hold my book differently depending on my location, the people around me, and how much I like the book. People do comment on my choices from time to time while others pay no attention at all. But I catch myself holding each book in such a way that perhaps some really cool person would see it and think, "Ooooooh, she's reading a classic! She must be smart!"
You've heard that you should never judge a book by the cover? Well, that's precisely how I do choose my books! I don't even like to read the excerpts on the back. I like to get into each book with no expectations, as I assume the author would want. So it was the smoky black cover of MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides that originally attracted me to the book (I had to scrape Oprah's stamp of approval off the cover so people wouldn't think I was a total girly girl.... while I love Oprah, I don't want total strangers to think I need her to choose my reading material). I wasn't sure I wanted to read a book about one of the 39 historic counties of England, so I did take a peek at the back cover. When I read The New York Times review stating, "Part Tristram Shandy, part Ishmael, part Holden Caulfield ....", I knew Middlesex was the book for me!
It is a breathtaking, entertaining journey through three generations of a very fallible family. And The New York Times was right, Cal is a wonderfully engaging narrator!!
While the subject matter is deeply sensitive, the main ribbon running throughout the entire account is that you can't judge a book by the cover! I found myself looking at people differently. The way someone might square his shoulders, or grow her hair into her eyes. The obnoxious public prankster, the shy ragamuffin ... each may have a secret. Each may be something much greater or more tragic than what we think when we see (or ignore) them on the street.
It is a beautiful story of finding oneself, of loving one's family, of fighting for a better way. When I finished the book, I was on the train. So, with tears streaming down my cheeks, and a smile filling my ample face, I cradled Middlesex in my arms like a baby, gazing at it adoringly, "Look what I just read! Isn't it beautiful?!"