Q&A With Jeffery Eugenides
Why did you decided to use Cal as the narrator and were you concerned that his/her omniscience would confuse or distract readers? How did the narrative voice of Cal affect your telling of the story (chronology, emotional perspective, tone, etc.)?
— Kristin K.
It took me a long time (years, literally) to come up with a narrative voice supple, complex, and intimate enough to suit the content of Middlesex. On the one hand I wanted a first-person voice that could relate Cal's own life history from the inside. A first-person voice also allowed me to avoid the pronomial clutter you had to step over in your question (the his/her problem.) Much better, more truthful, and more individualistic to say "I."
The difficulty was that I also had other characters' stories to tell. This worked better from a third-person perspective. So I played around with first- and third-person, writing many drafts that never saw the light of day. Gradually, I came up with a hybrid voice, well-suited to my theme, that shifted from first- to third-person on a dime. Is it too complicated? I hope not. I took great pains to make the transitions as smooth as possible. Some time-shifts, consisting of a line or two, took days to write before I got the right rhythm and sense. I didn't want to trip up the reader. Flashlights are provided at all intersections. The reader, however, is expected to look where she's going.
— Jeffrey Eugenides