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Conundrum (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – May 16, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (May 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590171896
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171899
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A very good writer telling a profoundly poetic story...In fact, it is the author's extreme subjectivity that makes the book as good as it is...After reading this most charming of all Cinderella stories, one feels that sex is just as much a conundrum as ever, which is to say, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, 'a riddle in which a fanciful question is answered by a pun,' or 'a problem admitting of no satisfactory solution.'” —The New York Times

“Certainly the best first-hand account ever written by a traveler across the boundaries of sex. That journey is perhaps the ultimate adventure for a human being, but although it has been the subject of myth and speculation since ancient times, it is an authentically modern experience...What Jan Morris does offer, through her life and her work, is a window on the wondrous possibilities of humankind.” —Newsweek

“This book is a very well-written account of some of the emotional factors which eventually led the author, by then in his forties, to submit to expensive surgery in Casablanca.” —The Washington Post Book World

"This is a beautiful book. I found it to be melancholic, courageous, and wise. That it's subject matter is Jan Morris's transsexual journey almost seems secondary to her incredible prose and the clarity of her honesty and introspection. Beyond the issue of gender, she searches for an answer to that most elusive of questions: who am I?" —Jonathan Ames

“The finest descriptive writer in our time, of the watercolor kind.” —Rebecca West

“If there is anything typical about Miss Morris's experience, however, she has successfully disguised it.” —The Times Literary Supplement

From the Inside Flap

"This is a beautiful book.  I found it to be melancholic, courageous, and wise.  That it's subject matter is Jan Morris's transsexual journey almost seems secondary to her incredible prose and the clarity of her honesty and introspection.  Beyond the issue of gender, she searches for an answer to that most elusive of questions: who am I?" -- Jonathan Ames

Customer Reviews

I would recommend it anyone who reads deeply and broadly.
Anne
Jan Morris is a wonderful writer, her story is compelling, her observations about so many things beautifully stated.
Rita Review
This is an intriguing memoir, beautifully written by an author who has written numerous other non-fiction books.
Lawyeraau

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an intriguing memoir, beautifully written by an author who has written numerous other non-fiction books. Jan Morris, formerly known as James Morris, was the correspondent for the London Times assigned to cover England's historic summit of Everest. The author actually accompanied the expedition to the Himalayas and did on site dispatches of the historic event. It would be as James Morris that she would write the wonderful book, "Coronation Everest", which chronicles the events leading to the historic summit of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the eve of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The author would eventually become a celebrated writer of many travel books, journeying the world over.
This very personal book is an autobiographical narrative of the author's own gender dysphoria, as she, a biological male at birth, had always felt that she had been born into the wrong body. Elegantly written, it is not a book for those who are seeking tabloid sensationalism. Rather, it is, at times, somewhat anachronistic in feel, as it was written by someone who lived through a time when actual gender changes were still in the nascent stages. Passing historical references are made to those transsexuals who paved the way for others.
The author's account of her early life is fascinating, as much of it was spent in traditional male pursuits of the time. A stint in the army as a member of the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers, years as a well-known foreign correspondent, as well as husband and father, were all roles in which the author found some satisfaction but never total fulfillment, as her gender dysphoria continually intruded upon her happiness, a dark cloud hovering over all that she did and all that she was.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on April 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Conundrum is a classic of the small but powerful field of transgender writing. What places this book at the top of the list are the fame of the author, the stellar prose, the non-sensational style of the telling, the humor, and the many layers and levels of love that carry Morris' passage from man to woman through to completion.
A tour de force in every way.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
It was after the Guardian review when the book was first published that I bought the book and as a transitioning transsexual I can identify quite closely with what Ms. Morris writes. Her style is very lucid as one would expect from the author of Venice and gives a realistic description of the transsexual condition, though each human experience is unique.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 16, 1998
Format: Paperback
Born into the English upper-class with a boarding school education , a succesful 2nd WW army officer's experience, a journalist with private means,The Times Correspondent with Hillary's 1952 team first climbing of Mt. Everest,a husband and father with a (still)understanding wife. Jan Morris made a succesful transfer of Gender retaining her family and career. Not a book for people intersted in tabloid sensationalism.. but a nicely presented book that might make the 'rites of passage' for others easier. Few Autobiographies can ever have been as honest as this
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Deirdre Hebert on July 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
On many levels, this is one of the most revealing books I have ever read. Regarding transsexualism, it reveals that as different we may be as people, much of the journey that we share is not unique. Some may be put off a bit by the command of the English language that Miss Morris exhibits, but I found this to be a profound statement about the poor quality of education that we recieve today. Having attended private schools through High School, and having attended varioius colleges, I still found myself referring to the dictionary on numerous occasions. I do not attribute this to an attempt at showmanship on the part of Miss Morris, but to a decline in the past decades of real education. Regarding the concept of femininity and womanhood described in this book, I would think that modern women of any sort may be offended. I remind the readers to remember the time, culture, and place in which Miss Morris comes of age. She experienced life in a culture which for the most part, no longer exists. Thank you, Miss Morris, for paving the way, and opening my eyes.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anita Argo on August 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
An insightful book regarding the life and emotions of one of the earlier transgender icons. This book brings the reader inside and creates a personal view of Jan Morris life through His/Her changes. Originally written during the 70's the emotions still hold true today. I would recommend this book for anyone who would like to find a personal touch of understanding for those who's lives have been found caught between worlds of the masculine and feminine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By bagoas on September 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A couple years ago I read one of the best travel books I know: Venice, by Jan Morris, who is considered one of the best British writers of today, with a body of work that emphasizes the travelogues, but that includes fiction, history , memories and non-fiction in general.

Venice is a majestic book, which made me feel naturally curious about its author. At the time it was published in Portugal an article in a portuguese newspaper aroused my curiosity: I found out that Morris was a transsexual having a sex change in the early 70s, and that part of her work, including Venice, has been published with her previous male name, James. It was still as James Morris that she participated participated, as correspondent for The Times, in the British expedition that first climbed the Everest.

The interest in learning more about the author, and the precedent of the magnificent writing of Venice, brought me to Conundrum, a volume of memoirs dedicated to the half-life that Jan Morris lived with the conviction that her sex was wrong in relation to the gender she felt that she belonged to, and the process that led her to correct this error, culminating with a stay in a clinic in Casablanca. The book was first published in 1974, and this reissue just updated with a new preface by the author.

The writing is excellent. Morris' english (Venice I had read in translation) is lush, with a rich vocabulary, the syntax sophisticated simplicity is almost musical. The book is organized into short chapters, in which the tone, although varying between memories more reflective and more factual account, it is always very stylish and fun, combining an english way of being affluent to a view of life from those who already knew its most secret and extravagant corners.
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Conundrum (New York Review Books Classics)
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