Sunday, August 13, 2006


So i have finally finished reading this novel, and it has given me a good two weeks worth of enjoyment. I found it so much better than Eugenides debut novel, the virgin suicides, as it is certainly less 'american'. Sometimes I feel that I don't connect well to american literature, never getting into hemmingway, frustrated with the lead of 'catcher in the rye', continuing reluctantly with Kerouac, but this novel trancends the geographical confines and culture of the US. Here a story begins in the 1920s in greco-turkey, a story of love amogst the atrocities of war. The searching of the american dream and the penetration of a recessive genetic mutation leaving Cal born with non-specific gender. Raised as a girl, it is during her formative teenage years she realises that actually she is genetically a man, but with deficiency in one enzyme resulting in mal-formed gonads. Certainly an interesting subject matter, and told in a story that covers the subject matter with sincerity and not titilation. Of course anyone studying biology past gcse level will realise that there is more than a Y chromosome that makes one male, and studying developmental genetics shows how finally balanced the chemical soup of morphagen gradients, controlled by a comparitely small number of genes, is that ensures the organs grow correctly. The book also asks questions about identity, what makes us male or female, not new questions, but can be extrapolated to many other aspects of life, the ideologies we choose, the faith we have. Are all these tightly wrapped in the union of nature and nurture, what has the greatest pull? In this book it is obviously the male genetic make up that pulls Calliope to her male counter part Cal. But it also challenges the superstitious nature of faith, is Cal the punishment from God for an illicit incestrous relationship, or the elevated chance that recessive traits have of showing their prominance amongst closely related families from geographically secluded areas. Christ actually refuted the belief that disabilities were punishment from god, but this mindset still seems to prevail. Where does the boundary of superstition and spirituality lay, are prayers mere protective talismanic chants, or a communion with the divine? I think this book does really well to demonstrate the shades of grey through which life is lived, nothing is black and white, even something as straight forward as sex determination. Which is why I often sit on the fence over issues of faith, not because I want to shy away from saying faith is this or that, or christ means this or the other, but because I recognise God to be multi-coloured, multi-faceted, and to work in ways that i can't fully perceive. I think i like this book because it asks of us, who we are? which leads us to why we are? (for which 'life of pi' is a great book to read). And just sometimes we realise we are loved by god and we are to show that love.

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