Monday, August 25, 2014

First Lines Second Thoughts — Middlesex



First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works. On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? Today we look at a family saga that explores gender identity. Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. Published in 2002.

"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."


Jeffrey Eugenides


The Pulitzer Prize winning novel Middlesex was hailed as a masterpiece upon its publication in 2002. The protagonist and narrator, Cal Stephanides is a third generation Greek-American with a 5-alpha-reductase deficiency that gives him both feminine and masculine traits, hence the title.

Eugenides was inspired to write Middlesex by the story of a 19th century convent girl called Herculine Barbin who was later forced by the courts to live as a male. While intrigued by the account of Barbin's life, Eugenides felt it lacking in details. It would take Eugenides nine years to complete the follow up novel to his successful Virgin Suicides. He spent the first few years of this project discovering the narrative voice.