Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Marriage Plot

Excellent, if depressing and unsettling--at least to me--novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. Very good book.

I think I write well, but every once in a while I read a book like this and I realize that there are the minor leagues, and then there are those who are major leaguers.  This guy is in the majors, and on the all-star team.  A half dozen times I would read a sentence, stick my finger at the place in the book, close the book around my finger, and shake my head marveling at how this guy can string words together.

The book is about three students--two men, Mitchell and Leonard, and a woman, Madeleine-- at Brown who are graduating in 1983.  One of the men is part Greek from Detroit who, after graduation, travels to India.*  He is a religious studies major and has an epiphany during his sophomore year that Madeleine is the love of his life.  Problem is, she, a literature major, is not interested in him but has her eyes on Leonard, a science major and resident lothario. Problem with the lothario is that he is a manic depressive.

So, you have a love triangle in Providence Rhode Island during the Reagan years with the main characters very bright college students: a religious studies major, a fledgling scientist who is maniacal but has several dancing partners, and a woman--a literature major--who eventually publishes an essay entitled, "I Thought You'd Never Ask: Thoughts on the Marriage Plot."

The characters are so well drawn and nuanced.  I have this tendency when I read books to adopt the thinking and speaking patterns of the characters in the book.  It can be kind of wild to hear myself saying something to a colleague in the way a character might utter it.  Imagine my discomfort while on the subway yesterday and reading a brilliantly written section about the musings of the manic-depressive.  I did not want to talk to anybody on that train.  Not kidding.

If you are a reader, then you will enjoy this book.  It is not as easy sailing as say an Ann Tyler who I am crazy about.  This author, Eugenides, jumps months without much warning and you have to keep track of where you are and what country.

But it is worth the ride to try to figure out where you are.  I'm guessing that's a message in the novel.

*(The author, Eugenides, is a Brown 1983 graduate, from Detroit, of Greek origin who travelled to India, Just fyi.)

No comments:

Post a Comment