I am almost finished re-reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. On May 21st at 11:30 I will lead a Books and Brushes session at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where we will use Middlesex as our inspiration for looking at various pieces of art currently on view in the galleries. This is the fourth Books and Brushes session I have been assigned. Sometimes finding connections between a book and paintings or sculptures in the galleries is pretty easy. Other times when I start reading a novel I wonder how I will connect it at all. I first read Middlesex several years ago and just loved the breathtaking prose. Eugenides has this way of describing things and people and events that forces you to go back to read his words over and over and again because they paint such a wondrous picture. But on this second reading I couldn’t get too distracted by the beauty of the words because I had to focus on connections I could make between the book and the WAG art collection.
The first connection was easy. Middlesex tells the moving story of Calliope Helen Stephanides a hermaphrodite born in 1960 in Detroit into an incredibly colorful Greek family. Calliope eventually becomes Cal a fascinating man who works for the American state department in Berlin.
I knew the reason Middlesex had been chosen by McNally Robinson the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s partner in the Books and Brushes series was because we currently have Norval Morrisseau’s giant mural Androgyny on view in the main lobby of our building. But what other works of art might connect with the book?
I read and wondered and read and wondered and then about a hundred pages in Voilà! I found a connection to the paintings of Lawren Harris one of Canada’s famous Group of Seven.
A hundred pages later I made a huge asterisk in my notes by a section of the novel that related perfectly to some new work at the gallery by Canadian artist Tony Scherman.
This kept happening so even though I am not quite finished re-reading Middlesex I know there will be plenty for me to talk about with my fellow book and art lovers on May 21st.
There is still lots of time for you to buy the book at McNally Robinson read it, and come and join me to discover the connections I’ve made between art and a beautifully written novel. You might even make some connections of your own and I’d love to talk about them with you. You can find out all the details about the book club here. Hope to see you there!