Category Archives: Jeffrey Eugenides

3rd Discussion: Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex (19 Nov 2009)

Before the minutes, Timmy would like me to shout “WE HAD FUN!”

1. Isaac liked the novel best because of the humor and writing but he thought that the narrative is too deterministic in the sense that the characters are determined by their culture, nationality, sex, and gender, although Timmy noted that it may be because the novel is influenced by the structure of Greek tragedies.

2. Timmy was on the fence on this novel although he really liked the minor gay character, Ben. Timmy also pointed out that of the representation of plethora of sexualities in this book.

3. Aaron disliked the novel intensely and wished Yusa were around to defend it. Aaron hated it because:

a. of the homophobia. Aaron understood that the author intends to be liberal but the essentialism—that the hormonally male character has to be straight, instead of bisexual—in the novel is revolting. Besides, the lesbian Aunt Lina is eradicated from the novel, from the family history, once she finds her lover.

b. of the racism that Asians are the “last pit-stop” for closet gay men and how Julie has no options other than Cal. Aaron felt that it is worse being a liberal but possessing the wrong ideas about sexuality and race than being a bigot, especially when the book is a best-selling award winner, read by millions of people.

c. of the writing. The trio liked the part which mimics the language of camera but ambivalent Aaron thought that the author is a sell-out, already directing the film.

d. of the narrative. It seemed to Aaron that the author tries to force the narrative to fit into American history, making the narrative unrealistic. Isaac claimed that fiction doesn’t need to be realistic—true—and Eugenides is trying to write an American epic and so has to go through different eras. Timmy said that because of the scope of the novel, the themes are lightly skimmed over, hence we could hardly talk about the themes.

f. of the characters. Aaron felt that there is no psychological depth to the characters, which is the reason why no one in the group could name their favourite or least favourite character. Isaac argued that the reason may be because the characters belong to stock characters, which is part of Greek traditional storytelling.

4. At the end, Isaac felt an emptiness because when he asked us to say something nice about the book, we could only say it’s well-written.

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Filed under Coming of Age, Greece, Intersex, Jeffrey Eugenides, Queer, USA, War