I was talking to someone about this today: I am not smart in very many useful ways. Rather than reach for, you know, sophistication or accuracy, I am impatient and often process things on the level of “Ooh, if I were an alien trying to write a poem about this, what would be the first line” and then for the rest of my life when I think about Kant I will think not about actual philosophy but rather about how he thought masturbation violated moral law. I can never tell when my brain is going to feel like latching onto something, and once something has left a strong enough impression, there is no room for anything else.
For example, Middlesex. The book is phenomenal. Pulitzer Prize, a century in a family’s chronicle expanding and lurching across the page, insanity and incest and intersexuality, every section so complete that it’s like Thomas Hardy mixed with Don DeLillo in terms of the book’s world existing on its own and needing its readers not one bit. The story is essentially that a brother and sister leave Smyrna in the early 20th century, pretend to be husband and wife once they come to America, beget a son who seduces his cousin, and son-and-cousin (also like niece and great-uncle or however it becomes convoluted) beget an intersex child named Calliope, who has a very exciting life.
But I’m going to be honest with you. This is the only thing I really remember from this book, these three sentences from page 70. “Lefty took off his shoes and socks, as grit rained down. When he removed his underwear, the lifeboat filled with a mushroomy smell. He was ashamed momentarily, but Desdemona didn’t seem to mind.” The idea of a brother and sister having sex for the first time on a lifeboat, combined with the word “mushroomy”–seriously, mushroomy–I mean, if I had just read that sentence I don’t think I could take it off for James Franco, and that’s saying something. And then Calliope/Cal describes her/his genitalia as a “flowering crocus of sorts.” That ended my life. Both of those things ended my life. That’s what my brain latched onto, and just as Kant=masturbation, Middlesex=mushroom crocus genitals.