Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Middlesex I

I’ve never turned in a homework assignment late or incomplete, but here I am, just getting into Book 4 of Middlesex, despite agreeing to read the thing. I’ve put it off for other matters I’d rather or should attend to. Why am I not into the story?

In front of me now, shelved above my head are many many books. Let’s see… 3 rows, 5 columns of shelves ~3 feet wide. The breakdown:

4 shelves – Science, Engineering, and Mathematics textbooks.
1 –Texts on programming languages, from what I use weekly to languages that may as well be lost dialects of dead civilizations.
2 – All my notes from every undergrad and graduate course I’ve ever taken; every lab book I’ve been allowed to keep.
1.5 – Photo albums, Yearbooks.
1 – Books on philosophy.
1.5 – Books on and of various religions.
0.5 – Miscillaneous reference books.
1 – R’s books.
0.5 – Books on gay topics.

And, finally:

1 shelf of books I’ve read for recreation. But, it’s mainly titles like Plutarch’s lives and Paradise Lost, nothing popularly considered a pleasant read, and for decent reasons. I think I may have read them all as I would the textbooks, anyway.

Do I like Middlesex? Technically, yes, but I’m not drawn to it. I’d rather read Where the Wild Things Are to my boys or my old organic chemistry texts if given the choice :-).

Gosh, now I’m feeling self-conscious. I entered college an avid reader, and certainly read throughout, but less and less for fun and more and more for facts. What I read most today are journal articles. Have I become so focused on reading for facts, that I treat all books like textbooks, forgetting to just enjoy it, as I do music or visual art? I fear I have.

I was let down that Middlesex was about a 5 a-reductase deficient male, an “under-masculinized male” and not about a biologically “true hermaphrodite”. Why? Because that’s the topic on which I most wanted facts, perspective. Oh well, though, it’s still very interesting and I went on. Once the focus moved more away from genealogically matters and related details that, sure, were vivid and clever, but not what I sought, I eventually reached the typical problem I have with fiction. I don’t enough relate to the characters, and where I do here so far it’s on issues so long ago resolved that I find fiction regarding it not very useful.

In a way, most fiction makes feel kind of out of touch. Books regarding topics of sexual orientation can do this even more so. There’s so much I’ve not experienced. I’ve never had my heart broken in unrequited love. I’ve never had any notable clash with my spouse, or family. Never led a double life. Never had more than one love, or intimate partner, thank goodness :-). The major drama of my life is near all posted, starting here, but even my coming out story is queer. For such reasons, maybe, I don’t want fiction to explain it. If I want facts, I’d want to hear it from those who are living it, which is probably why, today, most my recreational reading is done on blogs and forums.

I can hear them now, coming to take away my gay membership card again. What queer would write the above? Don’t we all love an artful, good book? :-)

I’ll keep reading; I can tell it’s moving into the area in which I was most interested anyway. I’ll just have to turn it in late. Hope I’m not graded too harshly.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm glad you are reading it at all despite your mild disappointments. I'm still a little surprised (amused?) by your disappointment. 5-a-reductase deficiency is a genuine enough and interesting enough conflict for me, and I was surprised at how little it is relevant to the storyline and identity of the character.

And... organic chemistry? I'll bet you are very good at what you do if you enjoy o-chem so much. ;-)

Scot said...

That's my disappointment though, that I was disappointed in that one fact about his sort of hermaphroditic condition :-). I hope I can get back reading for reading's sake, as this has made me feel like I've lost a route to aesthetic pleasure in reading somewhere along my way.

Also, I don't think 5-alpha-reductase deficiency isn't a genuine or interesting conflict. It's just wasn't what I was looking for most, again, sadly, treating it like a textbook. I wanted to learn about so-called “true hermaphrodites”, from their actual perspective, more than what I can get from the science journals.

santorio said...

for a real person 'intersex' story, check the article in last sunday's nytimes magazine that i cited in my most recent post.