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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Books Read Lately: McEwan, Eugenides, and Wilcox

While this year has been one of good reading, if only not enough of it, I’ve demonstrated that one can do 27 different things in a day, and still make time for reading. I’ve already written a bit about Wilcox’s “Polite Sex” — it’s Chic Lit some 8yrs before the term came to exist; and I’ve drawn from Eugenides’s prose for my A Commonplace Book blog. Nevertheless, in this every-expanding permutation of journalizing, the three latest reads get their blurbs:

Polite Sex by James Wilcox

Two Louisiana girls graduate from college and move to New York City to grow up, find their riches, and get far away from the humdrum town that they didn’t want to live in anymore. While Emily has the higher plan, to act and be somebody, it’s Clara who finds celebrity by going the lowbrow path all the way. Nevertheless, Emily has issues with men, issues with women, and probably never should have tried to tame New York. However, this entirely disjointed story loses any strength it might have got from the author because he left the best scenes out. I’m the type of reader to lets an author tell the story his way, but Wilcox left me wondering just who these ladies were and why they ever wanted to leave their little world behind.

Solar by Ian McEwan

This hilarious take on the greening of the planet uses one disipated, philandering, divorce recidivist to expouse the virtures of photo-voltaics, possibly humanity’s best hope of long-term, free-like energy. In the meantime, we humans do well to fuck up all our chances. Especially great is one line in here that goes something like “the Indians and Chinese may have a lock on the future of solar energy, unless of course the Americans decide to wake up.”

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

This story is so humane in its unraveling the not-so-mysterious problem of hermaphroditism by way of intermarriage, that I enjoyed every sentence. Eugenides loves language and telling story, which is a good combination for someone who shows such a gift in portraying characters who are sympathetic and tragic and happy and miserable. Calliope Stephanides comes into the world as a boy, is raised as a girl (because of a misperception of the genitals), and then comes to realize that she is a boy. The humor and suffering and success and oh-so-American odyssey of this immigrant-Greek family pulls together three generations that span from the 1920s to the 1970s.


What Beauty is my newest novel, a story of art, obsession and ego. Read an excerpt here. It’s available as an ebook, too.

The Village Wit (2010) is a humorous and sometimes dark odyssey through village life, love’s fall, sexual politics, and that place where memory and modern love intersect. Read an excerpt here. This book is also available as an ebook.

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