Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Love triangle number infinity

Book: The Marriage Plot

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Published: 2011 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Pages: 406

Internet rumblings + my university ID card still checking out books for me after I’ve made the leap from student to employee + Eugenides speaking here this coming spring + Middlesex = me finding and reading this book as fast as I could.

And the only reason I was disappointed was how can ordinary people in a college courtship postgrad marriage love triangle compete with hermaphrodites and a family of suicidal virgin sisters? Eugenides is brave for tackling such an ordinary subject in his unadorned prose, which brings weird things into the real world but keeps its real-world subjects small.

But he made me care about these people and wonder about the plausibility of happily ever after, and while he didn’t break the ground I think he meant to with the parallels of the Victorian novel marriage plot and its application to the late ‘80s/early ‘90s changing American dream, I wanted to know what happened to his fictional slice of it. And the ending was bittersweetly satisfying.

To the rumors!

“It’s Mary Sue-tastic!” I didn’t really get that. The female protagonist is a little empty, yeah, and mostly but not always described as pretty, but she’s in her early twenties and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. That totally happens all the time. And she has interests (Victorian novels!) and flaws (spoiled and indecisive and clingy!). I had more problems believing that her parents paid for her to wander, and get her apartment, and treat her boyfriend/husband’s mental illness, especially since they didn’t seem to like any of the choices she DOES make.

“It’s about David Foster Wallace’s bandanna and depression!” I mean maybe, in the troubled genius of the male antagonist. But I recognized the other guy in the love triangle a lot stronger. He was a lot like Walter from Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom—a guy who works hard to make himself good and feels like he deserves something (the girl) for being able to repress his base urges so well.This guy makes better choices, though, which makes for a less brutal reading.

“It’s great!” “It’s terrible!” It’s good.

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