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July’s Book: Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Middlesex  won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and it’s the Leonard Lopate Show Book Club’s selection for July! It tells the story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus to Detroit, then to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe. Calliope is not like other girls—she has to uncover a family secret and piece together her genetic history in order to reveal who she truly is. Jeffrey Eugenides joins us to discuss the novel.

Get the conversation started now by leaving a comment or question about the book!

Guests:

Jeffrey Eugenides

Comments [17]

Jessie Gallogly from New Jersey

This is one of my favorite books and a moment that always sticks with me is when Cal comes home as a young man and goes to see his grandmother, and she says "you used to be a girl!" - such a simple and beautiful moment. It seems that older relatives are often more able to accept what others may consider scandalous or embarrassing.

Jul. 25 2012 12:58 PM
Arlene from Putnam valley, ny

Your depiction of the grandmother was amazing, a larger than life character, not unlike our own immigrant grandmas. I loved this book. Couldn't put it down. The depictions of the corset stays in my mind, and the story construction is glorious.

Jul. 25 2012 12:57 PM
Elle from Brooklyn

Desdemona is such a great character. I missed her when she disappeared.

Jul. 25 2012 12:50 PM

The part where the person was dying and he kept regressing further into his previous events so that he forgot his more recent present events fascinated me. Does this really happen when a person is dying? Where did Mr. Eugenides get this idea?
I was with someone for 7 weeks who was dying and I tried to find out if he was going through the same process. At some points it did seem that he did not recognize more present situations and people, and spoke more of the past as if it were present.

Jul. 25 2012 12:48 PM
Elle from Brooklyn

One of the criticisms I've heard from several friends is that they didn't like that the novel didn't cover more of Cal's life once he discovered his maleness. I disagree personally; I thought it ended perfectly, but I wonder if the author has heard this criticism, too, and if he has any thoughts on it.

Jul. 25 2012 12:48 PM
Juanami from Manhattan

This is one of the best novels I've read. Being a native Detroiter, I was amazed at the way you allowed the city to be a character, not just the setting.

Jul. 25 2012 12:46 PM
Elle from Brooklyn

I both read "Middlesex" and listened to it as an audiobook. It was one of the best contemporary novels I've read in recent years. Your reader was also extraordinary, and I believe he won an award for his performance.

Jul. 25 2012 12:46 PM

I knew a young woman who was born in a small town in Greece and married a cousin from the same town. They had a child who inherited the same transmigration of a specific gene from each parent, resulting in severe disabilities. So the premise of "Middlesex" rang very true.

The book is fascinating and so beautifully written that it 'felt' like an autobiography.

Jul. 25 2012 12:43 PM
judy from Manhattan

I loved this book when our book group read it yrs back. Although it's about many things and especially gender, part of what has stayed with me over the yrs is how much I learned about Detroit - its rise and decline. Sadly, Detroit is often in the news as never having come back after the riots, and I often refer folks to this book!

Jul. 25 2012 12:37 PM
Annie from Brooklyn (but originally Grosse Pointe!)

Please discuss writing about your (and my) hometown, Grosse Pointe, in both Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides. Did you grown up on Middlesex Road in Grosse Pointe? Also, can you discuss how you decided to weave the history of Detroit into the structure of Middlesex?

Jul. 25 2012 12:35 PM

I'm wondering if Mr. Eugenides still believes, as he asserts in Middlesex, that the July 1967 riots were actually an African-American revolution. I'd also like him to comment on his belief that Governor George Romney was responsible for the deaths, injuries, damages and looting that resulted from his requesting federal troops.

Jul. 25 2012 12:00 PM
Jo-Ann

Simple question: how did you come up with the idea for the story?

Jul. 25 2012 11:43 AM
Stephanie Kutner from Las Vegas :(

Dear Mr. Eugenides,
This is not a 'pathetic fledgling writer question,' or at least I'm not intending it to be. When I read MIDDLESEX, I was floored by the language, the character arcs, the transformations, the 'everythings'. But perhaps, what impressed me the most was the deft way in which you told a story with such a massive scope. I was a bit dumbfounded that such a story could not only be told, but told in such a way where each character was not only integral, but entirely fleshed out. I was wondering, as I'm in the midst of writing a family saga, how you managed to weave all of the story lines together, to keep track of it all without characters flat-lining along the way. Also, did you have the novel more or less in your head as you sat down to write the first line, or did you write as you went? I hear proponents from both schools but I'm just curious what your process is.

Anyway, sorry for being long-winded,
Thank you for giving us The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, The Marriage Plot and The Baster :)

Jul. 25 2012 11:24 AM
Linda M. Grasso from Brooklyn

Another gender question: I would love to hear Mr. Eugenides talk about what enables him to enter, understand, and convey so well female sensibility and experience. I am deeply impressed by the level of intimate detail, particularly about how it feels to inhabit a female body: training bras, depilatory creams, underpants stuck to the skin.

Jul. 25 2012 09:07 AM
Ellen Horan from new York

I hope you discuss the gender issues that Middlesex so bravely raises. JE's novels veer from male to female POV. (ditto Marriage Plot) In this day, novels are very gendered marketed (with pub companies always hoping to drive sales toward books with female identified characters for the larger female book buying market, or male with action/thriller/crime) Although male writers seem to be taking more risks with gender, are women writers doing the same? What does JE and book club readers think of books that are written by women but have male central characters? Can think of any?

Jul. 24 2012 03:08 PM
Karen Schulte

I've started reading MIDDLESEX and am inrigued. So far, a good read!

Jul. 11 2012 12:11 PM
Anne O'Neill from new jersey

Our long standing book group read this novel several years ago.

We were fascinated with the story-line, although some felt central theme was hard to accept. But I saw a truth in it.

I certainly felt it was thoughtful as well as thought provoking and well written.

Jul. 02 2012 06:49 PM

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