Sunday, March 28, 2010
Jeffrey Eugenides 2002
An intriguing unique novel written in the form of a memoir of Calliope Stephanides, a hermaphrodite born to Greek descendants Milton and Tessie. Calliope introduces us to the story of her grandparents Lefty and Desdemona as they escape their small Greek village and make a new life in Old Detroit. The confusing journey of her transformation to become Cal is so convincing and brilliantly written, it is hard to believe the story is a work of fiction.
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."
"As a baby, even as a little girl, I possessed an awkward, extravagant beauty. No single feature was right in itself and yet, when they were taken all together, something captivating emerged. An inadvertent harmony. A changeableness too, as if beneath my visible face there was another, having second thoughts."
"The mind self-edits. The mind airbrushes. It's a different thing to be inside a body than outside. From outside, you can look, inspect, compare. From inside there is no comparison."
"But the glimpses those men's rooms afforded were on the whole disappointing. The proud phallus was nowhere in evidence, only the feed bag, the dry tuber, the snail that had lost its shell."
"And so a strange new possibility is arising. Compromised, infinite, sketchy, but not entirely obliterated: free will is making a comeback. Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into mind."
"...my family found that, contrary to popular opinion, gender was not all that important."
"The lesson of Desdemona's suffering and rejection of life insisted that old age would not continue the manifold pleasures of youth but would instead be a long trial that slowly robbed life of even its smallest, simplest joys. Everyone struggles against despair, but it always winds in the end. It has to. It's the thing that lets us say goodbye."