Middlesex by Jefrey Eugenides
I really would like to have a good positive review of this, but really have very little positive to say about it.
For the most part, I found the writing really enjoyable to read (even though I wasn't really happy with the content of most of it).
There were some nice aspects dealing with the history around the Greek diaspora in Detroit. I found that the stuff about that to be a decent read.
There was some very enjoyable parts toward the end, which felt very familiar.
The body of the thing, really had so many problems. The main topic was intersexuality...
There was just so much wrong with that. The author/narrator (hard to separte as the story is told in first person) started, and genuinely continued to say things like they are a hermaphrodite (this was "written" around 2001 (born January 1960, currently 41 is stated at the beginning of the book) yet it uses terms which have been considered offensive since before the character was born).
There is some mention (I can't remember if it was the author or the narrator) that they are a member of the Intersex Society of North America. At the end of the story it hasn't been resolved that the narrator was a member, so I'm pretty sure it's the author.
Some of what I have read, has said that this is, "well researched" without speaking to any actual intersex people. It sounds suspicious when you claim "well researched" in a first person narrative and you have spoken to not one person who has the main characteristic that you are exploring.
There are a lot of different aspects which are mentioned...
There are multiple descriptions of sexual assualt (different incidents), there is incest (which is the explanation for the intersex condition, which for this particular case, may be the most common reason for it, but it is also one of the least common reasons for intersex condtions).
There is intense abelism, sexism, and racism throughout the story.
The thing I wonder about the reviews is there is like next to no genuine criticism of really any of it. The biggest criticism I can find is, "It is too long and ponderous" which I totally relate to, but honestly so many "best sellers" are a lot of different forms of "way too long."
Yes... There are some criticisms, that it doesn't give a sense of the embodyment of intersex conditions. Not read it as a criticism, but that this book is heavily in the "medical" end of the intresex spectrum of discourse.
I really feel I just can't provide a review for it, which feels like it expresses my thoughts in an effective way. I enjoyed the writing, I found a portion of the content enjoyable (but a minority of it) and some of the praise I have seen, I really question how it could be read that way.
Major spoilers ahead
Toward the end (I think the beginning of the last chapter) there is a section which is written as if just before completing writing the book where Cal talks with his love interest, the vast majority of the discussion is absent, and then they go and have sex, and some reviewers have said this comes as the love interest accepting him "as he is" yet to me, it comes across as, accepting that he's an acceptable sexual partner, with no interest in the person, and that's OK with all involved.
My taking that as not acceptance could be because, for me a relationship based on that kind of experience feels entirely empty to me. I have been in relationships which have been largely, "you're good to have sex with" but nothing more.
There are multiple sexual assaults described in the book, some in fairly excrutiating detail, others more in the, "this is a relationship based on sexual abuse". There is a section of about 30 pages which inculdes multiple sexual assualts, and an ongoing sexually abusive relationship.
There is some very overt racism in the book, which doesn't really feel at all resolved in the space of the book. It starts out that the racist comments are considered, "I don't get them," but in the end they end up being considered "more or less OK."
The sexism, is explained away as, "this is just the way Greeks do things," which may well be accurate, I don't know enough Greeks to know how well accepted the sexism of the Greeks which is in the books really is, "just the way we do things."
The abelism which exists, especially around the medicalization of the intersex condition, feels like it's mostly due to the fact that the author didn't really consult anyone with any of the conditions which are considered "diseases" in the book.
I recall some criticism of at least one person on the basis that they have a physical impairment, I believe in one case a mobility imparement.
I seriously can't recommend this book, but the writing was quite readable despite it being really terrible take on a number of subjects.