Category Archives: Books

Lord of the Rings Detour

If I’ve been a bad blogger lately (I have), it’s because of Tolkien. My life has taken a bit of a Lord of the Rings detour in the sense of being side-tracked from everything that I should be doing and thinking pretty exclusively about LOTR. Earlier this summer, I picked up The Hobbit with no intention of going through the other three again, mostly for length reasons. Probably because I knew this exact thing would happen.

You see, I have a confession to make. I wasn’t a fan of the series pre-Peter-Jackson movies – I don’t think I’d ever even heard of them. Admittedly, I was 10 when Fellowship was released in theaters. So the movies were definitely the primary source of interest for me, though at some point, I picked up the books and tried to give them a read. Still being young and not a hardcore fantasy reader, I did not have the same experience then as I am having now. In fact, I now remember little of that first time with the books. Needless to say, I was long overdue for giving it another shot.

I am 88 pages into Return of the King right now, and already I’m feeling concerned about what I’m going to do when I’m done. I’ve grown attached to these characters and all of Middle Earth; what happens when I find myself back in New Mexico? True, I have a lot of other books I need to read this summer (mostly books loaned to me by family and friends that won’t see the light of day until winter if I don’t get to them before the semester starts), and getting caught in the middle of this epic series was probably the most inconvenient thing of the summer thus far. But it’s also been the best.

I’ve seen a quote somewhere, though I don’t remember where anymore, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” (A quick Google search led me to George R. R. Martin.) If that’s not enough incentive to pick up a novel, I don’t know what is.

Anyway, I’m not planning on asking some dumb “do you prefer the book or the movie” question because nine times out of ten, there’s no comparison. I am, however, interested in one question: is there a scene or character that got little or no screen time in the movies that you would have chosen to include or highlight, even if it required of you to reduce focus on a different scene of your choosing? If you want to add something in, you have to take something out.

I’m really interested in hearing anyone and everyone’s response. I’ll come back in and edit this post with my response when I finish those last 252 pages. ;)

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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Synopsis:

It’s not enough to say that Middlesex “tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and the three generations of the Greek-American Stempahides family,” as the back cover begins. Yes, it does this, but this book also reveals more than just their story, it shows how much the present depends on the past and how the two forge connections so intertwined that one cannot even determine direct causation. Neither a coming-of-age tale nor a love story, Middlesex tells a coming-to-knowledge story, which requires that both Cal and the reader know the full story from the time when Desdemona and Lefty lived in the Old World, to his mother and father’s clarinet romance,  to the house in Grosse Point, Michigan and all of the secrets along the way. Only once this knowledge has been achieved, can one fully understand the breathtaking story of Cal Stephanides.

Why should you read it?

The characters, Cal, Desdemona, Milton, they drive this book. It’s not action-packed like most of the movies being made today, though it is not without its car chases, riots, and teenage love scenes. This book will never be made into a movie because it’s a story about people, their lives, and their experiences. The narrator, Cal, toggles between “Homeric” lyrical prose and straightforwardness that falls somewhere between tragic and hilarious, “Sing now, O Muse, of the recessive mutation on my fifth chromosome!”

I can’t speak highly enough about this book. One thing that stands out about this book is the treatment of fate. Was Cal fated to exist way back since his grandparents married? Or by trying to control the outcome of the pregnancy, did his parents alter or confuse his destiny?  Similarly, does being born with the particular visual characteristics of one sex destine a person to living their life as that gender? Or does the biological sex determine how a person feels gendered? This gets us straight to the nurture/nature debate, which I think I’ll try to avoid here. After all the emotional and physical distress that Calliope experienced in the course of these pages, the self-doubt and discomfort in her own skin, it seems that finding out the truth was really more important to his final re-birth than either nature or nurture.

My experience:

While reading this sometimes-humorous, sometimes-heartbreaking story about a boy literally trapped in the wrong body-shell and his experiences of not quite fitting into society, one question that kept coming back to me was: what does it mean to feel like a boy or a girl? Maybe this seems silly, but it’s something that I think most people take for granted. If you’re not suffering from gender dysphoria, it’s likely that you’ve never had to think about this, either.  Months after having read this book, I’m still not quite sure what I think it means to feel like a girl, even though I have “felt like a girl” my entire life.  Does anyone have any insight on this topic? I’d love to hear it!

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What do you think about this style of post? I haven’t done anything like it before, so is it too dull? Too long? I know I need work on synopsizing. Is that a word? It should be. Feedback is always appreciated!

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