Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Marriage Plot


Every once in a while my husband and I muse upon what we think would be the best job ever. He supposes a third string NFL quarterback would suit him just fine—as long as QB A and QB B would remain injury free...allowing the third-stringer to stay on the sidelines, keeping stats and collecting a nice salary. I, on the other hand, fancy myself a movie critic…a regular ole Siskel or Ebert, using that most sophisticated analytical metric: thumbs up or thumbs down. I'd only have a slight hesitancy to sincerely critique. That's not true. I'd have an enormous hesitancy to sincerely critique. It's just not my forte, bringing me to my point. (Sorry, to take such a circuitous route to get here.) I agonized whether to write a book review of The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. Because despite the rave reviews of this Pulitzer Prize winning author, I didn't love the book.

I imagined what I’d say if I ever met Mr. Eugenides–if he asked me his opinion of his book. First of all, I doubt he’d care about my lowly opinion. But, if he did, here’s what I’d say.

“Well, Jeff, (May I call you Jeff? Or, do you prefer Jeffrey?) you’re obviously a bright man, well-read in a miscellany of subjects. As a matter of fact, I think your scholarly disposition might precisely be the reason why I couldn’t connect to any particular character in the story. Blame it on my blue-collar upbringing. But I assumed I’d relate to a few characters, since I was, after all, an English major. But no. I actually found most of the players...tedious–even those in the infamous love triangle–Maddie, Leonard, and Mitchell. (And believe me, I really adore a good love triangle. Who doesn't? As a matter of fact,I think a person's obsession with a love story might actually be a premise for this novel.) Anyway, I need to temper my comments a bit. No one with a name like Mitchell Grammaticus can be too uninteresting! Gosh, I hate this critical hat.

"Anyway, Mr. Eugenides, within the first couple of pages I have to admit that I was enamored by the literary references. Then I began to feel a bit intimidated about the holes in my knowledge. Perhaps I was the dumbest English major to ever graduate, despite my relatively high GPA. (Oh, you say, it's because I didn't attend Brown? I'll try not to take offense...) Or, perhaps one needs to be indelibly erudite to truly enjoy the novel.

“Anyway, Jeff, the story was still compelling. You're obviously masterful in creating believable characters, moving a plot and intertwining contemplative themes. I think I would've enjoyed the prose if I could've just cared more about those characters. (I should've felt sympathy toward Leonard and his mental illness, but I simply didn't! Typically, I'm not so insensitive.)

"Ultimately, I felt the the denouement of this novel was strange, yet I gather this was a grand design that perhaps was over my head. I didn’t feel a sense of closure at the end. Maybe I was too dull to comprehend it. Either way, I think I might've liked the ending better that was perhaps more...I hate to say it...romantic, as opposed to realistic. I know, some probably would argue that it did end romantically...and real! But, somehow I wasn't quite satisfied...”

(By this time, J. Eugenides probably would've have walked away from me.)

I bought this book because I had read many great reviews of the novel. Quite honestly, the title captivated me. "The Marriage Plot." Brilliant.

I found this interview with the author and found him to be quite engaging and...modest! ButI tend to think he writes in a different sphere as me.

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