It took you years to write this book. How do you stay motivated when a project stretches over such a long amount of time?
It's rare for me to get an idea for a book as large and fully formed as the idea for Middlesex. At a certain point early on, I saw the entire structure of the book in crystalline form inside my head. The elegance of this structure bewitched me. When I felt like giving up—and I did almost give up, many times—the thought of that crystal palace in the distance kept me plodding on.
Did you incorporate any of your own experiences growing up as a Greek-American into Middlesex?
I didn't only study up on genetics and history to write Middlesex. I studied up on myself, on my so-called ethnicity. I'm only half Greek, and that half is thoroughly Americanized. I didn't grow up in a Greek-American hothouse, and when my paternal grandparents died they took a large measure of my heritage with them. The immigrant customs I describe in Middlesex, the Orthodox rituals, the superstitions—most of that is a product of my reading, not my personal experience. I can recall the outlines of that lost immigrant world. It used to assemble, after all, every Sunday in our living room. But those people were old and spoke Greek while I was young and spoke only English. I drew on memories of mournful grandmothers and industrious great uncles. But I filled in these outlines with research, and imagination.
Try these Greek recipes while reading Middlesex!
A Conversation with Jeffrey Eugenides continues...