Brevity might be a bad quality for lovers, but it’s one I admire in writers. Get your mood and point across and get the hell out. Perhaps I’d have a different attitude if I bought more books, but since most of my reading comes from borrowing off of friends’ or the library’s shelves I don’t feel the thirty bucks spent on a hardcover should provide a solid month of reading.
Jeffrey Eugenides new novel The Marriage Plot will take you a while to read. It spans 406 pages, but it really doesn’t tell you too much. From cover to cover it puts the lives of three alumni of Brown University under the microscope for the year plus a summer after their graduation day. A lot happens to them in that time. A marriage, mental breakdowns, globe spanning travels.
Eugenides was surely inspired by JD Salinger with his subject being the educated and mentally anguished, but whereas Catcher In The Rye took two hundred pages to capture a night of Holden Caulfield, it was a wild night, one you did not want to end. The Marriage Plot lacks that or any urgency. It takes its time making sure every scene is painted down to the finest detail.
The author is a fine writer, but where his previous work Middlesex was also leisurely, it delivered us a unique character in a hemaphrodite. The Marriage Plot relishes in being of this world. It’s 1981, but the only difference is that one had to stay home all night if you were expecting a phone call. The book establishes a convincing case that depression is as much a disease as diabetes or cancer, but if you’re going to present such a weighty tome, a book that would give you decent biceps if you curled it while reading, I want more from it.
This book goes well with Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom . Middle aged authors going back to the era of their early eighties college years to set a romantic love triangle must be a new craze. The Marriage Plot is much better than Freedom. There are scenes that make you laugh, The book is also speckled with enough descriptions of a search for religious meaning that it makes me wonder if I am not smart enough to interpret a deeper message hidden within the text.
But even with that benefit of the doubt, the book”s title misleads the reader. There is a marriage, but there is no plot. This book is more a chance for Eugenedies to reminisce about a time when people wrote letters and could disappear for a year without any updates in their Facebook status, a year when the future had no end and mistakes served as lessons for a never arriving future. But futures eventually come, books eventually end, and experiences like books disappear if they aren’t memorable.