Book Log – Middlesex

Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginides

From Wikipedia:

The Bildungsroman is a term coined in literary criticism, which purportedly defines a genre of the novel which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood, and in which character change is thus extremely important.

So I learned, or re-learned (as it seems vaguely familiar), that term today.

Middlesex sat on my To Be Read shelf for an embarrassingly long amount of time.  It languished amongst intimidating non-fiction-books-that-seemed-like-a-good-idea-to-buy-at-the-time, like Evolution’s Rainbow and The User’s Guide to the Brain.  Someone, somewhere had recommended it, and it came up on, so I snagged it.  A long time ago.

I didn’t really know what it was about; I had a vague sense that it had to do with a hermaphrodite.  I am pretty indifferent about learning about hermaphroditism, and thus I never buckled down to tackle this one.

But… then I saw that John Allison (Scary Go Round, Bad Machinery) listed it as one of his three favorite books.  He knows good stuff, I think.

And he’s right.  It’s a great story.  Several great stories, actually, as we follow three generations of the main character’s family, the conceit being that we are following the path of the defective gene that leads to the main character’s status as an “intersex”.

The writing is strong, the characters are rich, and I wish I’d picked it up sooner.

There’s a lesson in here about selecting reading material.  There’s a big category of topics that I personally label “meh.”  I had zero interest in learning about geishas, but I loved Memoirs of a Geisha.  I need to stop caring as much what the book is about, but rather to how good it is.  Because a good book can make you interested in anything.


Book Log – REAMDE

REAMDE by Neal Stephenson

I mentioned this before, but REAMDE is reminiscent of Stephenson’s Zodiac, which was the first of his novels I read.  I enjoyed Zodiac, but I didn’t go out of my way to find other Stephenson works at the time.  I judged it a good eco-thriller, which are not typically my fare.

REAMDE is a good thriller.  Stephenson writes extremely well, and has some good characters and, well, thrilling moments.  But it’s not what I love Stephenson for.

So, it’s a very good book, but it’s just an okay Stephenson book.

The action spans from the terrain of an online Worlds of Warcraft style game to China to the wilds of the Canadian/US border.  The storyline is at once outlandish and plausible, a testament to Stephenson’s adept plotting.

Hopefully he’s gotten this one out of his system, though, and we can get back to the really good stuff.