The Marriage Plot., Eugenides, Jeffrey

Eugenides’ book might have

soured me on young, modern

academic and romantic relationships

1/3/12

I, too, intended to love this book, having waited for it since Middlesex. I, too, am disappointed. I felt like I was reading Franzen’s Corrections, which was okay, but I didn’t need to read it again; nor did I finish Freedom by Franzen for the same reason. I am disappointed because I had put great stock in JE, and I was sure this next book, so long in coming would be a masterpiece.

What has happened to popular literature? Why is it sufficient to trot out the lives of characters, their intersections and their problems, without the framework of plot — there is no “desire” here. There is no conflict, and there is no  passion.

I am always glad to learn new things. So after the MP I know some little something about yeast cells. I know a little more about manic/depression and I know some things about India which I might not have come to otherwise know.

The parents in this story were cut from the same dough as many others. In this book, and those like it, 20somethings from the 1980s (who would be 50 somethings now) are vapid but brilliant, healthy but unable to  follow their own common sense, and they aren’t even having a great time with sex. Sex is so tortuous in this book, that it frequently reads like the Indian excrement scene, embarrassing and tragic.

I suppose, as one reviewer put it, if I were of that class, I could identify with it better. I am much older than those characters were in this telling, but I don’t lack my own memories from my 20s. We had **fun**. We suffered deeply, we played hard, we felt things, we regretted, we rejoiced. These people don’t even get a kick from their
privileged education and the exposure to the subjects they chose to study.

Poor Mitchell couldn’t measure up to his own standards for being “good.” Leo’s situation is hopeless. I’ve known some M/Ds in my life. They function most of the time, they hold jobs and have families, go to school and  prevail much of the time — especially those with two shrinks and constant medication monitoring. This boy, Leonard, was hung out to dry. Maddy took on his illness and became a depressive too. There was nothing to root for in any of them.

So, I am disappointed on many levels. I expected more from the writer of Middlesex. I expected more from the parade of characters, not all of whom were cardboard cut-outs, and I expected some kind of mystery or journey or  decision to be made by the hero — but frankly, I am not sure who the hero/protagonist was.

The point of view changes were very effective, because not one of those characters could have supported the whole book. I was looking for a transition, a convergence of the three into one (metaphorically), but none came.

Maddy gets out of her situation with Leonard. Mitchell must accept her passive rejection and Leo is out running in the woods. While this may represent reality, who gives a s**t?

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