HBO options “Middlesex” for a new series

The novel Middlesex, by Jeffery Eugenides (who also wrote The Virgin Suicides), was my first literary encounter with the concept that gender identity is a bit more complicated than what parts are in your pants.

Well, not exactly the first, since it explores some of the same themes as The Well of Loneliness. But Middlesex was more contemporary — and, for me at least, a more readable story.

In the novel, the narrator tells the story of being born with a recessive gene that resulted in being male, chromosome-wise, but without a penis (I’m way oversimplifying). The protagonist was misidentified and raised as a female, Calliope/Callie, but later — after an accident — learned his true gender identity and became Cal.

Part of the trick of the novel, from a writer’s perspective, was getting the voice right. The perspective of a narrator that was raised as a girl but was really a boy is not exactly intuitive. Whether Eugenides pulled it off was the subject of many a literary article when Middlesex was published. I’m not sure what I think, since Cal was telling the story as a man and even the flashbacks were his memories of living like a woman who was a man all along — well, you see the problem.

In any case, Middlesex was a fascinating read and a book I hoped would eventually be brought to the screen. Rita Wilson agreed.

HBO announced this week that Wilson will executive produce a one-hour series based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. No word yet on how many episodes are planned, but I’m a bit relieved that it will be a series instead of a movie. That allows time to explore the family background and characters that are important to the story.

Since the characters are Greek, Flavorwire suggests John Stamos for Cal: “he’s both Greek and pretty enough to be a woman.” Personally, I thought Stamos was much prettier when he was a lesbian.

The real casting trick, I think, will be finding actors for Callie and Cal that actually could be the same person. Of course, the people who come to mind immediately are Daniela Sea and Zac Efron. I just can’t decide who should play Cal and who should play Callie.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this project develops. Have you read Middlesex? Do you think it will make a good HBO series? Who do you think should play Cal and Callie?

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