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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

278

The Marriage Plot vs. Twilight vs. the World

Disclaimer: light spoilers throughout!

There comes a time in your life — like, sometime between learning how to walk in heels and realizing you’ve been pronouncing the word “dilettante” wrong for years — when you’re the only person who hates a book that’s (almost) entirely celebrated, or vice-versa. It's embarrassing and makes you think you’re missing something, and every time you talk about it you feel like the literary equivalent of John Mayer boasting about having a "hood pass," but you keep getting into these loud, drunken debates about said book at parties like a total jerk until your friends get sick of inviting you to parties and finally you to Take To The Internet.

Guys, today I’m going yell about The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, because I couldn’t stand it. There. I said it. Just to recap, Eugenides’ credentials versus mine:

Jeffrey Eugenides has:
A Pulitzer
An ostentatious billboard

I have:
Basic health insurance
Friends with glasses
Feelings!
An incorrectly signed copy of Blue Nights by Joan Didion (who’s Ann?)
McRib
Indigestion from previous McRib

So basically, if you’d allow a Fed Ex guy to perform a surgical procedure on a loved one, read on.

1. I Hope This Book Ends Mary Sue-n

Forget for a second that I know this because in middle school I was a nerd. There’s a term in literary criticism (mostly fanfiction) that describes “a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader.” Twilight’s Bella Swan, for instance, is a Mary Sue. And so is The Marriage Plot’s Madeleine Hanna.

Though we spend the majority of the novel inside her head, Madeleine’s character is almost wholly defined by the men who fight over her: brilliant, manic-depressive scientist Leonard and the loyal and dorkier Mitchell. As for her relationships with her female roommates, mother, and sister ... consider the Bechdel Test failed. I get that the book is a modern take on the subject of Madeline’s thesis — the classic marriage plot, meta-whatever — but dealing with this on a character level, the fact remains that Austen’s 200-year-old heroines are more progressive than this one, and that’s sad.

Another classic Mary-Sue trait is going light on character description to allow the reader to effortlessly project themselves onto her. With Madeleine, we get only a vague description of her Katharine Hepburn cheekbones and sentences like “Looking the way she and he did, it was inevitable that they would be cast as the romantic leads in the scenes in workshop” sprinkled throughout.

2. A Case for NaYoWeWriOffGenMiAgeMo (National Young Women Write Offensive Generalities About Middle-Aged Men Month)

“In the character of Madeleine, you got the intrinsic melodrama of college girls just right,” goes a throwaway lead-in to a question asked of Eugenides in an interview on Slate. So ... perpetuating a condescending stereotype like that is okay, because these girls are assumedly white and/or privileged? Or because it’s being perpetuated by the educated? Or what? (BRB, I g2g flail away crying.)

One particular scene, featuring a drunk and rebounding Madeleine going down on a classmate and feeling weird about it, has been heavily praised. I’m not saying a writer’s subject matter is “earned” through personal experience — in the past I’ve felt really strongly to the contrary — but I will say that my resolve against that concept weakens daily, thanks to the phenom of older literary guys’ takes on The Bright College Girl’s Empty Sexual Encounter. A very similar scene in Tom Wolfe’s (rightly) critically-panned I Am Charlotte Simmons (also rightly) was given a Worst Sex In Literature award. Just saying.

Eugenides’ previous novels peered in on issues of femininity with a voyeuristic, detached eye — teen girls through the eyes of teen boys, female identity as experienced by an eventually male-gendered hermaphrodite — and were touching and successful. Compared to The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, this just feels like... two first names? Really? He may as well have named her Dreamwife Sparkleheartstar.

Yes, the dude’s pace is one book every 10 years, and I’m sure there was a lot of post-Pulitzer pressure, but come on. If a female debut novelist wrote The Marriage Plot, it would be marketed as chick lit, the cover would feature one of those caricature ladies with the really long necks and shopping bags, and people like Curtis Sittenfeld would write b*tchy reviews of it.

3. A Supposedly Derp Thing I Derp Derp Hurr-Durr Derp

“The great dread of college creative writing professors — the campus love story. ‘Their eyes met over the keg...’” –David Foster Wallace

Eugenides staunchly denies that the Leonard Bankhead character is based on the late DFW, but as far as I’m concerned the denial is so clearly and aggressively bullshit that I’m ignoring it. That big spread in New York magazine about young DFW, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Karr et. al. came out just weeks before the release of the book, which is unfortunate timing for Eugenides because it could almost read as an epilogue to The Marriage Plot if the Madeleine character were ten percent as awesome as Karr is (let me put it another way: she makes Elizabeth Wurtzel look like Mary Karr).

Anybody who’s aware of modern literature has probably been touched by the ripple effect DFW had on his readers and peers. This is obviously due to his body of work, but it's also due to the young-bandanna'ed-handsome-troubled-genius-“women want him, men want to be him” conundrum that’s explained best in Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. A conundrum because the more Wallace hated that myth, the more people were fascinated by it, and it was probably at least part of what killed him.

Like that myth, Leonard’s character is sort of the flip side of the oft-criticized manic pixie dream girl trope: the A Beautiful Mind-esque “tortured genius dream boy.” His freshman year is summed up “coming up from an act of cunnilingus long enough to take a bong hit and give a correct answer in class,” and if that’s not the myth of 1990s DFW as seen through the (green) eyes of his (male) contemporaries, I don’t know what is.

Despite the various literary accolades these men have achieved, all of them seem to have some long-held, fraught Salieri complex about DFW — even Franzen — and the way Eugenides’ comes into play as hate/reverence for the Leonard character here is really revealing. It’s like freaky bodice-ripper David Foster Wallace fanfiction. And it gets even weirder from a feminist perspective when you realize it's eerily comparable to another conventional marriage plot (bear with me) ...

The Marriage Plot or Twilight? *

1. “You’re such a-” she tried to think of the worst thing to say — “you’re such a jerk!” She was hoping to remain imperious, but her chest was stinging, and, to her dismay, she burst into tears.

2. She asked herself why everyone was being so mean to her.

3. It had to do with him. With how she felt about him and how she couldn’t tell anyone. How much she liked him and how little she knew about him. With how desperately she wanted to see him and how hard it was to do so.

4. If she was being honest with herself, she knew she was eager to get to school because she would see him again. And that was very, very stupid.

5. She married him in the throes of something like mania.

6. He had the most beautiful soul, more beautiful than his brilliant mind or his incomparable face or his glorious body.

7. They never made it to the park. They picnicked on each other.

8. He unleashed the full, devastating power of his eyes on her, as if trying to communicate something crucial.

9. His [penis] was highly particular to her, like a third presence in the bed.

10. His arms wrapped around her, holding her against him, every nerve ending in her body like a live wire.

11. His girth filled her up in a way that was not only satisfying, but breathtaking.

12. She never got over the shock of how perfect his body was ... she ran her hand down his chest, just marveling.

13. Every millimeter of movement, in or out, was perceptible along her inner sheath.

1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13: The Marriage Plot

4, 6, 8, 10, 12: Twilight

Anyway, despite Leonard’s brilliance and magnificent penis — oh, and his big penis — for all intents and purposes it’s the “nice guy” who closes the novel with Madeleine and makes the wise decision to set her free as a single woman. The less handsome, less brilliant, perhaps more genitally negotiable Greek Orthodox spirituality student, which is clearly not self-insertion on Eugenides’ part. No, not at all.

To that end, if Madeleine’s Mary-Sueness is for the wish fulfillment of the reader, it’s clear to me whose wishes the novel’s conclusion fulfills. Eugenides’ point, “slow and steady wins the race,” is — yeah, at face value, the message of many a marriage plot, but underneath could certainly be placed in a literary context. And given the DFW-inspired circumstances, that’s so bittersweet/douchey, like giving a revenge wedgie to a former bully who’s now in a wheelchair.

On the bright side, the novel I’m writing about me and Tea Obreht fighting over a dude who works at Ground Round is going really well.

*I’ve changed Twilight’s first-person to third for the purpose of this exercise.

Anna Breslaw could be called "the life of the party" if you change the entire meaning of the English language.



278 Comments / Post A Comment

You'll be sorry Jo March

Wow, those quotes...I will not be waitlisting this at the library as previously thought.

meganmaria

@You'll be sorry Jo March These quotes have me rethinking the respect I have for people who really liked it on Goodreads.

Quin

@You'll be sorry Jo March That's what I was thinking. Also "oh god, I've put it on my to-read list on Goodreads already! What if someone saw?"

Bittersweet

@You'll be sorry Jo March: Interrupting this thread to tell you how much I like your user name.

(OK, done. Carry on.)

j-bird

I really liked this book! And the quotes are out of context...it sounds much better in the full prose.

Ugh. I'm disappointed.

chelsaurus

Love this piece. Well said.

P.S. I really enjoyed the list of quotes as well, though it was too easy to pick out the non-Twilight ones due to the Presence of the Penis.

wee_ramekin

Okay OMG...how do you pronounce it?! I have been saying "dill-eh-tAHnt" my whole life! Am I wrong?!

Emby

@wee_ramekin It's actually "Dial-ee-tayn-tuh"

You'll be sorry Jo March

@wee_ramekin I always thought "DIL-eh-tahnt?" But now I'm realizing that I may never have heard it said aloud. Related: I truly embarrassed myself by saying that I wanted to see "Young G-oh-th in Love," and was quickly corrected by my mother's boyfriend. I hadn't ever discussed Goethe aloud. :(

Emby

@You'll be sorry Jo March I've always pronounced Borges like with a soft-g sound instead of an "h" sound. I don't know why. But I'm getting better about it.

iceberg

@You'll be sorry Jo March I believe this is correct, this is how I say it!

ALSO, YOU GUYS, my husband thinks "hearth" is pronounced herth, & I think it's harth. What say ye?

wee_ramekin

@Emby I always just assumed it was a loan word from French, and the way I parsed it out above would be the way you'd say it in French, right? @rayray? Anyone?

OH GOD THIS IS TERRIBLE.

wee_ramekin

@iceberg I say "harth".

Hot Doom

@wee_ramekin WHOOOOOA, just google it and have your mind blown by the audio pronunciation . I feel like my verbal life has been a sham.

cuminafterall

@You'll be sorry Jo March Did you see the Goethe movie?! I need to talk about Alexander Fehling's hot bod with people. I mean, YUM.

Also, "I've only ever seen it written down" is kind of my mantra. For several years I thought Cairo was pronounced "Sy-ro." Granted, I was 7. But still.

bitzyboozer

@LolaLaBalc Merriam Webster is good enough for me http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dilettante?show=0&t=1322069183

Jon Custer

@wee_ramekin A trick I learned from listening to college professors: in situations like this, just pick a pronunciation and say it with *complete conviction*. It's kind of like what they say about dangerous animals: everyone else is just afraid that they're saying it wrong as you are.

You'll be sorry Jo March

@cuminafterall I didn't! By the time I found out about it, it had already left all the theaters in my city. Did you like it?

Emby

@wee_ramekin Well, my pronunciation I spelled out was a joke. I'm actually not totally sure about the correct way, but yeah, I'd assumed it was French-sounding.

Emby

@LolaLaBalc WTF? Dill-a-tanty? WTF even is that? No, the French are wrong if that's how they say it, I don't care if they invented it.

Lily Rowan

@LolaLaBalc Just no. Not in America, anyway! http://www.wordnik.com/words/dilettante#sounds dill-uh-tahnt. If that u is really a schwa.

Emby

@Emby I think someone at google is fucking with us. M-W has a much more reasonable pronunciation.

Guy DeBr0'd

@Emby In the original French, the "t"s are silent.

All of them.

You'll be sorry Jo March

@Guy DeBr0'd "DIL-eh-hah-hah"

Hot Doom

@Lily Rowan I agree with you. I've been sayin' dilluhtahnt all this time, and I ain't quittin' I don't like the ends of my words to rhyme with "panty".

Guy DeBr0'd

@You'll be sorry Jo March You have to give the n a "Felix Unger clearing his sinuses" kind of sound.

Lemonnier

@wee_ramekin I always pronounce it 1-900-Dial-a-Taint.

redonion

@LolaLaBalc That just made me die at my desk. That can't be right! It doesn't even match the phonetic pronunciation right next to it! But now I keep hearing dillatanty in my head and I die every time.

wee_ramekin

@everyone

OK! You guys! I etymoligized it, and it's actually from the Italian dilettare, which means "to delight". So I guess it could make sense to have an 'eee' sound at the end.

But you guys! DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE PLURAL IS?!?!?!?! 'Dilettanti'! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Look at that big group of dilettanti -- so superficial!

redonion

@wee_ramekin So I should be pronouncing it with an Italian accent? I sound like I am in a tomato sauce commercial.

Guy DeBr0'd

It sure is a spicy meatball

MmeLibrarian

@wee_ramekin According to the Oxford English Dictionary, either dill-uh-tahn-tee or dill-uh-tan-tee is correct. However, I bet we could find an American dictionary that will reassure all of us that dill-uh-tahnt is also okay.

Xanthophyllippa

@You'll be sorry Jo March One of my students tried to sound smart by mentioning him in a class discussion of ethics and instead pronounced it "Goaty."

vomiting

@Emby As long as you're not pronouncing Jorge as George, you're going okay.

RK Fire

@You'll be sorry Jo March: I just tried saying that out loud and it made me giggle.

@all: It looks like dilettante is originally Italian in origin.. which may explain the idea of pronouncing every single possible syllable? I don't know, I've only studied Spanish.

Guy DeBr0'd

@vomiting Wait, I thought Portuguese pronounced it that way. What am I doing wrong?

Chesty LaRue

@everyone
This is the greatest conversation I've ever read.

mlle.gateau

@wee_ramekin "NO NO NO NO!" That is what I have been saying to my computer for the last two minutes as I replayed the pronunciation on various websites.

NO. Just... no. I DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE DILETTANTE RHYMES WITH PANTY, NO MATTER HOW MANY AMAZING LIMERICKS IT MIGHT GENERATE.

sophielouise

@everyone I pronounced 'epitome' as epi-tome (with a long o sound) until about 3 years ago. I actually thought it was a different word when I heard it said out loud.

paisami

@mlle.gateau and that man sounds so gleeful as he craps all over life as we knew it. good grief.

Ann_Elk

@wee_ramekin It's actually pronounced, "throat-wobbler mangrove."

Guy DeBr0'd

@Ann_Elk Theoretically...

D.@twitter

@LolaLaBalc Right? Usually I try and suppress my Midwestern accent (flat A's, pronouncing every letter)...but in this case, I shouldn't have!

miwome

@LolaLaBalc What WHAT NO? I think I'm going to hide under the quilt of snobbery and continue saying "dill-uh-TAUNT" because IT'S A FRENCH WORD ORIGINALLY LEAVE ME ALONE

(This from the girl who cringes every time her parents say "neesh" instead of "nitch" for the word "niche." I just. I don't know if I can make this particular switch.)

stonefruit

This entire thread has made me weep tears of joy. I love you all. Except for that fucker on the sound clip who says dilettante rhymes with panty.

The Lady of Shalott

“Looking the way she and he did, it was inevitable that they would be cast as the romantic leads in the scenes in workshop”

Wait wait wait. Admittedly I have not been involved in the theatre in any way since about Grade 12 and even then I was never ever involved in the onstage proceedings, but...is this a thing? Would any self-respecting drama teacher actually cast people in scenes for a workshop based on how they looked, rather than selecting people who needed to learn that thing, or who were better at that type of role, or whatever it is drama teachers do in that sort of situation?

Also this review fills me with fury that Eugenides, who has written such great stuff, has written something that can be reduced to "ladies: they aren't complete without menfolk!"

j-bird

@The Lady of Shalott That's exactly the opposite of what Eugenides is saying. His character believes she isn't complete without menfolk, but through the course of the book learns that's a dangerous way to live. The whole point is that Madeline is wrong in the way she approaches men.

bitzyboozer

@The Lady of Shalott That wasn't the takeaway I got from the book at all, FWIW.

annepersand

I don't think that it was the takeaway, but I do think that the final scene with its overtones of "I, a man, release you, a lady, of your need to be dependent upon men" is hardly a slam dunk for female characters anywhere. I had a similar problem with the fact that this woman's divorce and emotional turmoil essentially turned into a big Learning Moment for the author avatar and that that turn was presented completely uncritically.

bitzyboozer

@annepersand That's a fair point, and definitely one of the problems I had with the book. Also his treatment of Leonard, who is the driving force behind so much of the plot. He gets only one POV section and then is sort of unceremoniously shuffled out of the action, never to be heard from again.

annepersand

@bitzyboozer Right. And like I said below, I appreciate the way he wrote about Leonard's depression. I think it was very powerful. But using someone else's mental illness as a plot device for the growth of your avatar while shuffling said depressed character off on some weird manic spree? And said character doesn't have any growth or development throughout the book? That's both shitty writing and shitty being a human being.

Clare

@bitzyboozer I didn't like how Leonard didn't get to speak for himself at the end of the book either. [Spoiler alert] He just disappears in the Oregon woods with Godfrey? That's it? To just be a manic crazy person in the woods forever? What a waste of an interesting character.

Pound of Salt

@The Lady of Shalott I've found drama teachers definitely do that.

Orange_prose

@The Lady of Shalott Fat girls can't even be romantic leads in class. /bitter

special_boots

LOVE the term Mary Sue, which I'd never heard before. I would've called this type of character the "Dagny Taggart."

WaityKatie

@special_boots Maybe Mary Sue is the modern version of Dagny Taggart *now with less rape*?

annepersand

@special_boots It's great, right? It comes, I believe, from Star Trek fan fiction, which generally has a lot to answer for.

Lemonnier

@WaityKatie I think a Mary Sue is blander than a Dagny Taggart (or a Dominique Francon). The Dagny Taggarts are impossibly beautiful and unimaginably wealthy, not to mention brilliant and uncompromising and totally awesome at everything they do, even poor people stuff, so NO EXCUSES POOR PEOPLE FOR NOT INHERITING AND RUNNING RAILROADS. Oh, and yes, they love rape. All in all, kinda like what I imagine the female characters on "Dynasty" were like.

Daisy Razor

@annepersand Yup, the original Mary Sue has (I think) been lost to time, but she was updated for the ST reboot with Ensign Sue Must Die: http://www.interrobangstudios.com/potluck/index.php?comic_id=10

plonk

FEELINGS! i liked many bits of this book, but i thought overall that it was pretty pointless, which was sad after how much i liked the virgin suicides and middlesex.
the DUMBEST part i thought was the end, not necessarily the events themselves but the author's ATTITUDE about it, like it was a totally revolutionary twist on the Classic Love Story or whatever for mitchell and madeleine not to get together immediately after she lets go of leonard. it's not! it was the only acceptable ending! if they HAD gotten together immediately, it would have been nonsensical and dumb and i would have hated it. you don't get literary genius points for NOT writing a nonsensical dumb ending.

bitzyboozer

@plonk I pretty much agree with everything you just said. High five!

aubergineshriek

I agree so hard with this post. Halfway through the book I was like 'when is the story going to start?' And at the end I had a 'wait, what? that's it?!' moment. I really wish he had shown us that Madeline could have been her own person.

Clare

@aubergineshriek I think that's for the sequel and I honestly am hoping for one because I really did like The Marriage Plot.

queenofbithynia

# 13: wow, there's nothing like fucking you can actually perceive. definitely better than the other kind, got to give him that.

wharrgarbl

@queenofbithynia I just choked on the water I have trouble with drinking properly on a good day.

Also, inner sheath as opposed to...our well-known outer sheaths?

queenofbithynia

@wharrgarbl Right?? and the one positive thing I have to say about the word vagina is that at least if you don't know Latin you don't have to think about the fact that it means "sheath." so why you would want to ruin someone's theoretical happy ignorance by calling it that I don't know unless it's because you (Jeffrey Eugenides) are some kind of jerk.

wharrgarbl

@queenofbithynia I am now afflicted with the mental image of the gentleman in question moving in and out, millimeter by millimeter, of her outer sheath, which I can only assume is one of those little clamshell purses, while she stares intently at him, perceiving the whole thing with her eyes. And I thought I'd share, because misery is meant to be shared.

queenofbithynia

@wharrgarbl That will go in my memory place right next to my favorite Dan Savage advice letter ever, the one from the guy who had what in this context I will call an anti-perception fetish: his ultimate fantasy was to have sex with a lady who just lay there reading a magazine and acting like she didn't notice what was happening because it was just so boring. man that guy would hate sleeping with the Eugenides perception lady, she notices everything.

wharrgarbl

@queenofbithynia Oh, man, I remember that guy. Didn't Dan Savage tell him his best bet was to go find a previous letter-writer's supremely-bored-with-married-sex wife and marry her?

iceberg

Ah this book does sound terrible, what is interesting to me is that I am guessing you are spot on about the chick lit marketing - the writer has a penis so it's a great novel instead of frilly trash.

I have similarly unpopular feelings about Gone with the Wind, which I think is dreadfully racist slavery apologia with a completely utterly unsympathetic heroine and not really a single likable /supportable character.

The Lady of Shalott

@iceberg I love GWTW specifically because I believe Scarlett is such a horribly unsympathetic character. In Mitchell's first drafts she originally wanted to write the story about Melanie as the heroine, but Scarlett was a much more dynamic (and frankly, interesting) character. Scarlett is a monstrous human being, and Melanie is Too Good For This Sinful Earth--I like to read it as each embody a stereotype of womanhood: Melanie is the woman who is devoted to her family above all and is thoroughly good, and much better than any men. Scarlett is the woman who is ruled by her passions, unable to do anything for anyone besides herself, and doesn't care who she has to trample on to get what she wants. Mitchell's ideas on slavery are an interesting commentary on retrospectives about the past among wealthy Southern whites around the turn of the century, sadly common, but way more interesting as a way of understanding the author's thought processes.

Sorry for the long comment! I have many Thoughts on GWTW.

melis

All of which could be summed up with: "I hate you and I hate your baby, Melanie Wilkes." -Scarlett

iceberg

@The Lady of Shalott Not at all, thank you for your perspective! I personally got the feeling that I was *supposed* to like Scarlett at least by the end, and I didn't at all. I also felt that Mitchell seemed pretty blatantly pro-slavery by the way she presents it in the book. Different strokes, etc.

Sorry for threadjacking, everyone!

SuperGogo

@The Lady of Shalott A pretty clear virgin/whore dichotomy, I think.

melis

@iceberg According to lore, Mitchell was raised on stories of the Civil War by a series of great-uncles who fought for the Confederacy but didn't learn the South had lost until she was twelve years old. Context!

Valley Girl

@all Aw man, I love GWTW and Scarlett and Pork and Mammy and Will Benteen and boring old Melanie but especially Scarlett. She is ruthless but shrewd and badass. I do find her sympathetic and think she's the archetypical proto-feminist anti-hero. Hypens!

Obviously there are major issues to be problematized: the narrative is absolutely an apologia for slavery, the virgin/whore dichotomy mentioned above, the use of Mammy/pickaninny stereotypes, the internalized misogyny, the celebration of 16-inch waists...All of these things deserve Many Thoughts and Words. Preferably CC'd directly to me so that I can revel in them.

beanie

@Valley Girl I love Scarlett too! I mean, part of me wishes I could act like Melanie in certain situations (as in, just be nicer) but I see a lot of my bitchy side in Scarlett. Which is probably not so great considering everyone else is saying how much they don't like her...

BUT.

That Ashley Wilkes is a pushover and I hate him. #TeamRhett

melis

#TeamPrissy Because COME ON, she totally pretended to be an expert in midwivery in order to slow Scarlett and Melanie down and help Big Sam lead his squadron of escaped slaves (disguised as Confederates) to battle. Also, Butterfly McQueen left most of her money to the Freedom From Religion Foundation after dying in a fire in 1995. If that's not the most badass thing you read today, you must be doing research for a biography of Evil Knievel.

beanie

@melis Ma says that if you puts a knife under the bed, it cuts the pain in two.

melis

...Prissy said as she quickly placed the container of salt in the drawer behind her. Try growing cotton this year on salted farmland, Miss O'Hara, she thought to herself, humming loudly and purposely off-key in the way she knew drove Scarlett crazy.

melis

Scarlett's first and gravest error had been letting Prissy near the family Bible. Once she had begged India into teaching her to read, nothing was going to stop her from bringing Tara down around everyone's ears, taking Mommy, Pork, and the good silver with her as back payment for 30 years of wasted time. "I'll take that message to town, Mrs. O'Hara," Prissy often volunteered. "You just let me carry those letters for you."

When Tara burned, Prissy let out a deep, booming laugh that could be heard for miles around. It sounded nothing at all like her usual voice. Upon hearing it, Mammy looked at her with those deep, quiet eyes of hers and smiled.

The Yankees couldn't take Tara. The carpetbaggers couldn't take Tara - Scarlett had seen to that. But Prissy could.

Augusta Wind@facebook

@Valley Girl I read GWTW at a pretty young age, maybe 8 or 9, and I remember being enamoured of Scarlett until I got to the part where we find out that Scarlett doesn't like books or reading. I was dismayed and betrayed.

Annyong

THANK YOU! I have been waiting to talk to someone who realizes what a steaming pile of shit this book is (and this is coming from someone who loves and has read Middlesex so much that the book is practically falling apart)

Xanthophyllippa

@Annyong You want my copy to replace yours? I hated that book.

bitzyboozer

I can't disagree with much of what you say here. The book definitely has some problems, and yet I really enjoyed reading it. I guess I didn't have as much of a problem with the Mary Sue aspect of Madeleine because of the whole play on the marriage plot conceit, and because, like it or not, a lot of young women pretty much are defined by their relationships to men at that point in their lives...I certainly found a lot to relate to in the book. But I'll admit, she is pretty nebulously defined considering how much time the author spends inside her head. I also think that's true, maybe to a lesser extent, of Mitchell and Leonard though.

K.@twitter

@bitzyboozer This! I read & enjoyed The Marriage Plot, but also read & enjoyed this article & can definitely respect Anna's complaints about The Marriage Plot as valid ones.

LauraPalmer

@j-bird -- right on! Eugenides is debunking the typical plot of Austen-eque novels wherein the love story is a neatly wrapped package that gets a perfect bow placed on top of it at the end. The Marriage Plot shows us Madeline's discovery of her self, and her independence from men! It's totally pro-woman!
And @plonk -- I didn't think the ending was dumb; I quite liked it. You also don't get literary points for creating a completely brand-new unheard of ending! What? Did you want Madeline to join a cult? Mitchell to reveal that he'd been a skin head the whole time? I think books which have over-the-top endings tend to distract from the bulk of the narrative. Endings don't have to COMPLETELY surprise us to be good! And not all surprise endings ARE good -- I mean, look at M. Night Shyamalan!

plonk

@LauraPalmer no no, i was totally fine with the ending itself, it was just the little bits of authorial smugness about it that bugged. it was a great ending because it was totally warranted based on what we've seen of the characters. but in general the whole idea of "i'm debunking the marriage plot!" seemed like an odd thing for the author to be harping on, since there's been a WHOLE TON of literature not dependent on the marriage plot between austen and now, and he didn't really do anything new with that idea. he just wrote an often good, sometimes pointless and annoying story about often good, sometimes pointless and annoying characters.

j-bird

@LauraPalmer Well, and the last page was really well written. I'm incredibly sensitive to over the top prose and insincere writing, and this didn't even have a hint of it to me. I've never read middlesex, so maybe it's better, but I haven't read a book in years that has held my attention like this one. I feel like Madeline is the younger, dumber version of many women before they mature. Give her a little grace! Even Mitchell realizes she's not that special, maybe that was the whole point! I feel like the story is more about Mitchell than Madeline, because he's the character that grows the most.

j-bird

@plonk I don't think the point was to debunk the marriage plot, it was to define what a marriage plot is in today's society. I went to Eugenides' talk here in DC and he said that the book is mostly about how the books we read affect our real relationships

bitzyboozer

@plonk Something about the author having his characters say "Hey, this would be a great way to end a book" when that is LITERALLY the way the author IS ending his book, on that very page, just felt a little smug/insulting to me.

MousesHouse

@plonk _ But he acknowledges that IN the book. That's why assumption that he is trying to "debunk" the the marriage plot is really off base.

@j-bird I guess that makes sense. I don't know if it's enough though!

j-bird

@LauraPalmer fair enough.

plonk

@MousesHouse well, "debunk" isn't exactly the right word, but that's because i couldn't figure out WHAT he was trying to do with the marriage plot, i.e. what the point of bringing jane austen et al into it was at all. we as readers don't get anything out of having the lack of realism of the marriage plot pointed out to us, and what's more i don't think the characters were that concerned with the marriage plot to begin with. madeleine loves to read, and the author keeps SAYING that her head being full of novels has affected her relationships, but i really don't think it has. the kinds of bad decisions she makes are just as easily made by people who don't particularly like to read. basically all the attempts at literary self-awareness made me go "huh?" rather than enhancing the story in any meaningful way. and they were unnecessary, as the story is a totally fine minor character study, if not the most compelling thing i've ever read.

WaityKatie

@plonk YES, I thought exactly this. We learn near the beginning that she wrote her thesis on the marriage plot, and then she never mentions any of those books again. I was expecting her experiences to be filtered through the lens of any or all of the books, but...no. The rest of the book was basically shallow rich kids having boring, typical college relationships. Yay?

j-bird

@WaityKatie It was really light on her thesis, I do admit disappointment at that. But I liked their relationships.

veryanonymous

@LauraPalmer Wait, though. Where does Madeline actually do any "self discovery?" Or really become "independent of men?" Her husband essentially runs away from her because he's too mentally ill to sustain a relationship, and her friend who has had a crush on her ultimately decides not to pursue her. She doesn't have much agency in either situation.

annepersand

Thank you for this. It was perfect. I'm not going to force my parents to register as commenters just so they can corroborate the number of times I called them during the course of reading this book just to complain (mostly about the weird love/hate-boner that Franzen and Eugenides seem to have for DFW) but it was a lot.

The thing I couldn't get over was how contemptuous the writing often seemed towards Madeline and Leonard. I could accept that the point of Madeline, such as she is, is that she makes the wrong choices about men. Obviously I am not going to argue that the only female character in the book of substance should not be flawed. But to idealize her in the eyes of one character and then treat her with contempt as the author for the idealization and the flaws that you as the author have given her, is shitty, lazy writing. Although I will commend him for part of Leonard's POV that delves into what depression and mania feel like, because those were pretty good (although, and I'm not crying literary plagiarism here by any means, I think you can draw a pretty strong thematic and/or technical link here between this and a lot of DFW's work).

Long story short, The Marriage Plot was a bummer and not in a good way and I hate that I wasted my hardback book budget on that, instead of 1Q84.

feartie

@annepersand Related: Can we have a book review section maybe sometimes on contemporary lady writers who don't get much press but are likely to write good books or at least books one can discuss without accidentally frothing at the mouth?

*full disclosure: I am a lady writer emerging chrysalis like from the pages of my first book, but not likely to come out for a wee while yet, so.*

Guinevere'sGhost

@annepersand @feartie I love the idea of this lady friendly book review section. As a lady MFA student struggling with my own writing, I feel like I'm sort of drowning in masculinity. Everybody is reading male writers, and striving for that sort of masculine style, and it's kind of discouraging and overwhelming to me.

feartie

@Guinevere'sGhost You are absolutely right - it isn't just thematic choices that get shuffled away as 'women only concerns', there are also interesting questions to be asked about style, about the dominance of certain modes of writing - and how with women writers it usually seems to come down to their body or their demeanor in the end. You can be pretty, or fragile, or overly assertive or ugly, but you don't get to be just a writer in the way a man can disappear behind his words.

Guinevere'sGhost

@feartie Isn't that so true? When we talk about Wallace, or Franzen, or Eugenides, nobody cares whether they are attractive or not, or whether they are balding. But when you see something written about Zadie Smith, for example, her appearance is often brought into the conversation. But I'm thinking also definitely of those modes of writing. For instance, why does a book have to be some sort of reflection of all of american culture? Why are our social commentaries so unemotional? I did enjoy reading Freedom, but it didn't stir much emotional response in me, because of the style in which it was written. It was very, very detailed, and very contemplative, but it was always at a remove. Why can't good literature get more INSIDE the messiness of human emotions? Because emotion is too feminine? I don't know, but maybe it's something to think about.

MEGA VENUTIAN SPACE SCORPION

@feartie Oo! Suggestion: Kate Atkinson. She writes mysteries that I’ve not been able to get into, but the two non-mysteries of hers that I’ve read are amazing. Human Croquet (novel) and Not The End Of The World (short story collection), they’re both surreal, poetic, and fantastically well written. If I were still an English student I’d find a way to write a paper on them.

(Why yes, I'm reading days old Hairpin posts because nothing new has been posted. I miss you Hairpin).

thisisveronica

i was nearly ready to overlook my blah feelings about middlesex and pick this one up, but this changes my mind. phew - bullet dodged.

dracula's ghost

I haven't read this book, but I fucking LOATHE "The Wire," so I know what you mean about holding unpopular opinions.

It has made my social life really difficult.

iceberg

@dracula's ghost You are not alone! Well, I didn't loathe it, but was just meh, and didn't bother watching more than 2 eps.

dracula's ghost

@iceberg but then FOR YEARS, somehow endlessly, it comes up at parties and everyone just stares in total horror at you and the needle scratches off the record and you are called upon to defend your opinion while the whole room yells at you!

And then finally you just stop stating anything about the Wire, in the hopes that it will stop happening, but by now your opinion has become legendary, and so every time the Wire comes up, somebody is bound to yell "DRACULA'S GHOST!!!! SHE HATES THE WIRE!" and then it all happens again!

I am getting sweaty just thinking about it. It reminds me of being vegetarian in the late 80's when no one had ever heard of such a thing and whenever it came up (i.e. at every meal) you were surrounded like a zoo exhibit and people would demand to know why you thought animals had feelings or whatever.

melis

@dracula's ghost Since there doesn't seem to be a relative thread in which to post, this I'm going to leave it here:

IT IS TOTALLY UNFAIR TO INCLUDE THE WORD 'TWILIGHT' IN THE TITLE OF AN ARTICLE AND THEN INCLUDE ZERO PICTURES OF KRISTEN STEWART LOOKING LANKY AND UNHAPPY AND LIKE SHE MIGHT CRADLE ME IN HER STRONG ARMS IF CIRCUMSTANCES WERE SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT

That is all.

melis

@dracula's ghost And don't feel bad, I've never even seen The Wire but act like I have all the time. Ditto Treme. Is that show still on?

AMc
AMc

@melis I couldn't get into Treme, so whenever it comes up in conversation I act excited about it and continually pronounce it Treemeey in a high pitched voice. Usually stops the conversation dead. And now I've combined this thread's topic with the dilettante conversation above!

Guy DeBr0'd

@dracula's ghost High five! Fellow 80s veg! (Now lapsed.) I don't have an opinion on The Wire because I'm one of Those People who doesn't have a TV. I'm also one of Those People who gets suspicious if something is so popular (e.g. The Sopranos, Italian mobsters? Wow, I'm sure that uncovers a lot of fresh territory!)

wee_ramekin

@melis I made this for you:

melis

BLESS YOUR TINY CERAMIC HEART

Guy DeBr0'd

@wee_ramekin holy loly

Helen Carpenter@facebook

@dracula's ghost I am a big Wire fanatic, screeched a lot until my friends watched it, and when anyone mentions disliking it, a part of my brain I am not proud of thinks, "They just didn't try, they didn't want to dissect this part of our culture!"

Kara Reynolds

Thanks for the heads up and YES, so many male writers write about young women in the same way. SCARY!

j-bird

I'm obvi not going to convince people this book is good.

I surrender.

MousesHouse

@j-bird I just couldn't figure it out. I really enjoyed parts of it, and then was cringing other times, but the whole time, really, I assumed Eugenides knew what he was doing. I don't always give authors the benefit of the doubt like that but there was just SO much material that I feel like there were parts I wanted to dismiss and couldn't. My reservations, for the record, are basically the same as everyone else's--just that Madeline was empty and blank for the purpose of projection. But I'm not convinced there isn't something intentional and not shitty about it somewhere.

Also, I'm glad someone finally captured the TOTAL EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWN studying semiotics can give you.

j-bird

@MousesHouse Yeah, I could see that. It does wander...

Guy DeBr0'd

<3! I don't read much right now, but I've got a lot of anger right now that nobody seems to be taking seriously, so I really identify with that (and the general feeling of hating shit that's canon and/or "omg you have to read this!!" kind of thing (which is pretty broad and/or vague but I'm in a mood so I don't care (so there! (nested parentheses ftw))).

wharrgarbl

@Guy DeBr0'd I've found that one crisp "I read that book you recommended and now think less of you as a person" gets people to stop recommending you books. For obvious reasons, you probably only want to do this to people who keep trying to get you to read things like Dan Brown "because it'll blow your mind, man".

annepersand

@wharrgarbl Stealing that line forever.

Guy DeBr0'd

@wharrgarbl What if it's by a "Toltec shaman" and you're totally crushing on this person (not the shaman, obvs) and otherwise they seem pretty reasonable and you're not likely to be invited to a sweat lodge as a part of the courtship process, but you still kind of wonder what else is lurking in that beautiful, beautiful head of theirs?

wharrgarbl

@Guy DeBr0'd It's a test. If you like the book, you will fail it. You are not worthy of them. If you pretend to have liked the book in order to make them happy, you will fail it. You are not honest enough for them. You must read it, and tell the truth, and only then will they reveal what is lurking in that beautiful, beautiful head of theirs. And possibly (no promises) be free of the curse that confines them to swan form every seventh year.

SuperGogo

@wharrgarbl I had a great friend years ago who was the first person to introduce me to (old, classic) Barbara Kingsolver, who soon became one of my favorite authors. As a result, I came to view this friend as some sort of author shamen, who could be relied on to point me toward amazing writers. Then she told me about Jodi Picoult...and I haven't viewed my friend the same way since.

Guy DeBr0'd

@wharrgarbl I could probably live with the swan thing tbqh (not that way), I recognize that I'm not a very good liar anyway.

Ok, but what if... hypothetically... in this process you found out that one of your favorite commenters apparently has no sense of humor about a certain author who's really better as a monologist, but his books are a reasonable approximation, what then?

wharrgarbl

@Guy DeBr0'd Hypothetically...the nipples of Mother Hope have run dry.

I'm typically a bit gunshy of even monologists transferring to the written word. There's a lot of timing and tone and body language informing even the most aggressively bland performance that is difficult to translate successfully to the page. Though, hypothetically, if we're not allowed to get cranky over popular writers or shows that we happen to dislike on this, the thread of complaining about things that everyone is loving, I'm not sure where to go from here. Probably start sending anchovy pizzas to Lev Grossman's house in a likely-vain attempt to prevent another sequel to The Magicians.

Guy DeBr0'd

@wharrgarbl I'm not going to riff off that nipple ref, I'm just not...

Thinking about it, I have to admit that reading was just re-hearing (or imagining hearing) them being spoken. And I do feel like I have a sense of a particular comic timing that's been mediated by growing up with NPR - from Prairie Home Companion to, um, well, This American Life aaand... ?

THAT BEING SAID, I don't listen to either of those anymore (sorry Jane!), I mostly brought it up to have something to talk about? Because I wouldn't have risked something I really had an emotional attachment to? *cough* David Mitchell *cough*

Guy DeBr0'd

Wait, but maybe you could tell us more about the McRib? I thought that part was really underdeveloped.

Miss Zarves

I haven't read this book, but this: "There comes a time in your life [...] when you’re the only person who hates a book that’s (almost) entirely celebrated," sounds like serious potential for a pretty awesome hairpin comment thread. I absolutely and completely hate: Blind Assassin, Confederacy of Dunces, and anything by Dave Eggers.

oh, disaster

@Miss Zarves Yes x 100000 to Confederacy of Dunces. Some dude with a weird lip ring recommended it to me as the funniest book he ever read and I did not laugh once.

Life of Pi is also on this list.

NeenerNeener

@Miss Zarves I liked Confederacy of Dunces, but I never read more Eggers after A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which it certainly was not.

wharrgarbl

@Miss Zarves I have yet to make it more than five pages into a David Sedaris book without literally physically giving it the finger and putting it back. I just cannot brook the man.

iceberg

@Miss Zarves haha see above re Gone With the Wind!

Christina McMc

@Miss Zarves YES TO DAVE EGGERS. I find all of his stuff ridiculously overrated. 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius?' 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Boring' more like.

See also - The Corrections. I don't think I've ever disliked a book more than I disliked The Corrections, so much so after I finished it, I was tempted to hunt down and punch the numerous people who'd recommended it to me.

Alibi Jones

@Miss Zarves Haaaaaaaaated Confederacy of Dunces. Also Rabbit, Run, and Portrait of the Artist as Young Man, though the latter was in high school so maybe I should give it another go?

Miss Zarves

@andrea disaster Life of Pi looks like a book that I would really hate, so I've avoided it. We should be goodreads friends.

Miss Zarves

@Miss Cay Ah The Corrections! I still don't know how I feel about that book. I hated every single character so much- but for a book to evoke that much emotion in me is rare, so it's a draw.

annepersand

@Miss Zarves Ugh. Franzen. I have feelings about Franzen, and most of them are something along the lines of "shutupshutupshutupshutupshutup"

Clare

@wharrgarbl I love David Sedaris so much (he once gave me a present at one of his readings) but even I think he's been phoning it in in his last few books.

dracula's ghost

@annepersand I loved Freedom. It helped me come out of the closet as someone who doesn't want to have babies!

For anyone who hates Updike: have you read the DFW essay about what a penis-obsessed dipshit Updike is? There is truly nothing like reading a scathing screed about someone you also hate, written by your favorite writer! So many hilarious pull-quotes about penises.

Stuff I Hate That Everyone Loves:

- The Wire
- Harry Potter (books and films)
- zucchini

distrighema

@Clare Ahh, me too! He gave me a tiny bottle of shampoo. It's in my glove box, just in case I ever need it.

gobblegirl

@Miss Cay I was just about to post about The Corrections. It's a terrible book about terrible people, imho. I can read about people I don't like, fine. But I refuse to read a boringly written book about terrible people doing things that are uninteresting as well as terrible. To the people who kept calling it a subtle exploration of the difficulties of modern life, or whatever - screw you, my modern life has way fewer assholes in it.

dracula's ghost

@gobblegirl For a subtle exploration of the difficulty of modern life I'd rather read Infinite Jest any day of the week and twice on sunday. Even though I liked Freedom, I still can't believe Franzen and DFW are compared to each other all the time, it is infuriating!

PLEASE NOW NO ONE SAY YOU HATED INFINITE JEST. JUST DON'T SAY IT!!!!!!! MY HEART

annepersand

@dracula's ghost I have a complex reaction to Freedom. Parts of it I really liked, parts of it I really unequivocally hated. I guess my overall reaction was -- and I realize from a logic and even critical standpoint, this is nonsensical -- that I felt as though those characters deserved, not a better writer, but an author who was better to them. I just can't really deal with authors who seem to regard their own characters with a cynically arched eyebrow, and though there were moments where Franzen seemed to break through that kind of posturing, they felt like they weren't intentional on his part.

annepersand

@dracula's ghost OH GOOD WE'RE ABOUT TO GET SOME INFINITE JEST ALL OVER THIS THREAD. I am one of those assholes who believes that Infinite Jest is honestly the book of Wallace's generation. In my perfect world, Franzen's weirdo defensiveness about and not-so-subtle undercutting (OF A DEAD GUY, FRANZEN, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU) about David Foster Wallace will eventually become the only thing he is known for, and he becomes the David Foster Wallace Pseudofeud Guy and eventually collapses into a black hole of cynicism and self-hatred.

PrematureLizLemon

@annepersand I hated Freedom so much. Wasn't a fan of The Corrections, either. I like Eugenides, but neither he nor Franzen are fit to shine DFW's shoes, and I think they both know it.

Lemonnier

@Alibi Jones Agreed, Confederacy of Dunces is THE WORST. It is, however, heresy to point this out when you live in New Orleans.

Beck Rea@facebook

@Miss Cay: ARGH, I haaaaaated "Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Whatthefuckery". SO solipsistic, so boring!

I also despise and detest everything that His Holiness, the King of Narcissistic Narrative, David Safran Foer, has written.
"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was like trying to slog my way through a teenager's LiveJournal.

Ick. Just. Ick.

(but on the other hand, I loved "Charlotte Simmons". So there's that...)

Guy DeBr0'd

this little corner of the comments is especially relevant to my secret commenter crush list....

oh, disaster

@Clare Totally agree, I think Me Talk Pretty was the peak. What'd he give you? He gave me a little bag of chocolates.

Miss Zarves

@Beck Rea@facebook Ugh, EL&IC was the worst. I felt like an asshole even carrying it in my bag.

oh, disaster

@Beck Rea@facebook I absolutely loathed Everything Is Illuminated. LOATHED.

pterodactgirl

@dracula's ghost Love in the Time of Cholera. More like Love in the Time of Don't Bother-a!

Badum-ching.

In general I don't get the intense love for magical realism some people have. Mostly it's stupid, and that's coming from someone who partly-majored in Spanish. Maybe not the best choice on my part?

Beck Rea@facebook

@pterodactgirl: YES. I am not a fan of the magical-realism genre--I thought I would be, but oh, the disappointment! The mollycoddled men! The vapid women! UGH.

And I really didn't like LITTOC. Heh. That's a great acronym for Marquez's work.

WaityKatie

@wharrgarbl I liked Sedaris for a minute in my early 20's, but now I can't even get through the first paragraph of one of his New Yorker pieces. I think maybe he's gotten worse, or I've gotten better?

Beck Rea@facebook

@andrea disaster: I've decided to not even bother with "Everything is Illuminated"--I can't put another hole in my wall from hurling a book at it.

area@twitter

@Miss Zarves YES THIS THREAD. This is how I feel about Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and the Game of Thrones series. Game of Thrones is mostly because the few people I liked kept having horrible things happen to them. I can't even explain Girl with a Dragon Tattoo? Maybe I just couldn't get past the flow of the translation.

area@twitter

@Alibi Jones Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was one of only two books I was assigned to read for class that I physically could not finish. And I will read almost anything. (For the record, the other was by Carl Jung. It was huge and impenetrable and I was about to fail organic chemistry, so I said "fuck it" and went back to my molecular models.)

dracula's ghost

@area@twitter Wait but you guys INFINITE JEST, right???

Maybe the best book ever written?? What am I saying: YES

So true about Eugenides and Franzen not being fit to shine DFW's boots.

But remember also that an added weird factor to Franzen's defensiveness/meanness about DFW is that the two were good friends! Did you read that totally devastating New Yorker piece Franzen wrote about taking DFW's ashes to a weird deserted island and trying to scatter them? Pretty epic.

dracula's ghost

@area@twitter actually (and I hate to keep reffing New Yorker articles but it's where I get most of my information, to be honest) there was an article awhile ago about how really shockingly poorly written the Girl w/Dragon Tattoo books are, in both native tongue and translated. There's all this furor because the publisher basically had to hire people to sort of re-write the entire thing, and even with that drastic of a change it's still unreadably bad. So you are not alone! I haven't read them.

I love Game of Thrones.

Beck Rea@facebook

@area@twitter: "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is remarkably slow, overwrought, and I actually think the writer took perverse pleasure in writing scenes where Salander is hurt.

Ugh.

I think what irritated me most was that the story had such potential to be intriguing, intense, and cool, and just ended up as a pile of punditry mush.

tortietabbie

@Miss Zarves AAAAAAUGGGGHHHH DAVE EGGERS GO AWAY FOREVER

pterodactgirl

@Beck Rea@facebook I know, right? Then you realize that the molly-coddled men/vapid women is the "realism" part and you just want to smack yourself in the face. Feminism has not made the strides in Latin America that it has here unfortunately.

Heike

@dracula's ghost I'm just reading Infinite Jest for my book group. I'm at page 300 and I think this *may* turn out to be the greatest book I ever read. It's... remarkable.

Guy DeBr0'd

I think I bought into the whole Eggers = "spokesperson for a generation" kind of thing for a while, but had to admit that I was ultimately unfulfilled.

It's still ok to like what he organizes though, right? McSweeney's, 426, Believer, etc. That's still cool, isn't it?

area@twitter

@dracula's ghost @Beck Rea@facebook Yes yes YES, all of these things re: Girl w/Dragon Tattoo. Bleh.
I feel like I'm going to have my nerd card revoked for not liking Game of Thrones but I just could not finish the first book. I was reading it going 'how many shitty things can happen to these people?!'

Infinite Jess

@dracula's ghost Okay good no one in the thread yet has come here to bash Infinite Jest, my shriveled little heart is safe from being BROKEN.

I read that long interview book between DFW and David Lipsky and my favorite parts are when DFW hates the things I hate. Although on first reading I accidentally misread the part where he hates on American Psycho and approves of whatever book Bret Easton Ellis wrote two books before American Psycho as him approving of American Psycho and I was like WTF NOOOO and read half the book wondering where I had gone wrong in liking DFW before I flipped back and read it right and was like, OH. Okay, whew.

But also in like the whole first half of the interview DFW keeps telling David Lipsky he would have liked to have gotten laid off of his Infinite Jest book tour and I was side eyeing it a little, like, DFW, would you have said that if it were a female Rolling Stone interviewer following you around for five days and bonding with you on road trips like I do in all my dreams?

dracula's ghost

@Infinite Jess IF ONLY! I bet he was a bear of a man to be friends/lovers with (meaning: a terrible friend/lover) but I would still give anything to hang out with him for 5 days, comments about getting laid or no (and terrible constant bandana or no). I love when he hates the things I hate and loves the things I love! Truly the most powerful readerly kinship I have felt with an author, maybe even deeper than the one I feel for Carson McCullers, but that's probably just generation-based.

This year finally enough time had passed for me to re-read Infinite Jest and it was EVEN BETTER than the first time, because I am smarter now and I got it on a deeper level. How many levels are there? AN INFINITE NUMBER? IS THAT WHAT THE TITLE MEANS OMG

Guy DeBr0'd

@dracula's ghost It means your heart is a lonely hunter.

Infinite Jess

@dracula's ghost I haven't reread IJ yet (except out-loud excerpts to people at parties while drunk, especially Hal's retelling of the tiny-handed grief counselor to Orin over the phone, yes I am that person) but this summer I read The Pale King while on an interminable Greyhound bus trip which is maybe the perfect setting to read The Pale King.

I am glad you also love Carson McCullers but I have only read The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, what of hers should I read next?

Xanthophyllippa

@Beck Rea@facebook Thank you on the JSF hatred. Man, I loathe his stuff.

Guy DeBr0'd

@Infinite Jess The Member of the Wedding, then The Ballad of the Sad Cafe then Reflections in a Golden Eye, then The Mortgaged Heart, then Clock Without Hands. That's basically all of it.

I thought Ballad should have had the length of Reflections, and vice-versa, but that's just me.

melis

@Guy DeBr0'd A million times seconded to Member of the Wedding!

Guinevere'sGhost

@Miss Zarves I also hated The Blind Assassin! I made myself read the whole thing because I liked other Margaret Atwood books, but it was a real struggle.

Alibi Jones

@dracula's ghost Aaah! Wait! Did I miss the Infinite Jest appreciation club meeting?!

You guys! Come back! Let's talk about how fantastic it is. It is far and away the best book I've ever read and only gets better with re-readings. DFW is the best, get out of here with your Franzen.

I get so furious when I recommend it to people and they're all "it's too long." YOU READ ALL OF HARRY POTTER.

antarcticastartshere

@pterodactgirl OMG THANK YOU. I finished because I hate it when people say they hate something when they haven't watched/read/listened to at least most of it, but omg Love in the Time of Cholera was THE WORST.

And now I will speak some truth: I hate Neil Gaiman. I HATE HIM.

RK Fire

@antarcticastartshere: I liked the Sandman but.. American Gods just didn't do it for me. -_-; There, I said it. I don't know how I feel about that.

I loved the everliving gods out of Good Omens and all of Terry Pratchett's work though, although some books are stronger than others. His lady characters are getting a little one dimensional though..

dee
dee

@Miss Cay See, you are better than me, because I harbor a great deal of dislike toward both Mr. Eggers and Mr. Franzen without ever even having read any of their whole books. It's just their personas, and the essays of theirs that have come my way, but mostly their smug-dude personas.

Craftastrophies

@antarcticastartshere I cannot do magical realism. It just leaves me cold, somehow. Although yesterday I heard Salman Rushdie read some of the stories he wrote for his kids and thought 'I could maybe read that'.

A lot of this stuff on the list I had a good crack at and then decided it wasn't for me. I have been starting to feel like maybe I am... not a reader anymore? I am just not willing to read Difficult Books without some payoff. Or books with beautiful prose that doesn't say anything.

I don't really have an opinion about Gaiman. I like Coraline a lot, and I enjoyed Good Omens. My friend has lent me American Gods and I'm going to have a good go at it over the holidays. But you know... there are a lot of books out there, and many of them are great. I'm not wasting time on something I'm only moderately enjoying. I tend not to trash something unless I've finished it, I feel that disqualifies my opinion. But that doesn't mean I have to love it, or I'm Wrong Forever.

@RK Fire you know, I just realised that Pratchett is probably on this list for me. I really really loved him, and I still re-read the middle era books occasionally (and the Johnny And books are great). But I just... he's not All That.

It's like the burger I had for lunch. It was advertised as 'SA's Best Burger'. It was not. It was an ok burger, though, and had it not been hyped I would have enjoyed it more.

Chesty LaRue

@antarcticastartshere That's okay, more Neil Gaiman for me.

@ RK Fire I know a few people who felt let down by American Gods. I won't elaborate because my darling Craftastrophes is about to read it, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

I also had to jump in and add to the Corrections hate. Fuck you, Franzen. Also, I'm tired of reading about dysfuctional families. I like Neil Gaiman because his characters have magic powers and they're kind of dodos and his sense of humor is silly and everyone falls in love at the end.

Craftastrophies

@Chesty LaRue I'm down with reading about dysfunctional families, sometimes, as long as they 1) have actual characters, not just Family Roles and 2) also have character arcs, not just Crises.

I just recently reread Kate Atkinson's 'Behind the scenes in the museum' which was a bit harrowing as it was far too accurate re: the mother. But there was actual plot and narrative and growth. It wasn't just about inflicting pain on the reader, you know? And it was about the main character, who happened to live in a dysfunctional family.

Basically, I either want to enjoy reading something, or else to find some sort of big truth in it. Sometimes both happen at the same time. Emotional pain is not necessarily Truth.

Chesty LaRue

@Craftastrophies I think I can get into what you're saying re: dysfunctional families. Also, my family is absolutely normal (but extended fam on my dad's side - whoa), so maybe that's why I have a low tolerance?
Re: Neil Gaiman: I predict you would like Neverwhere.

pterodactgirl

@Craftastrophies I feel like we have really similar literary taste. Gaudy Night love, magical realism hate. The only Rushdie I've read though was Midnight's Children, which I started with the attitude of "I know it's MR, but it was Best of the Booker! It has to be good, right? Right?"

Wrong. Did not like it. And it was Best of the Booker! Definitely one of those times when it seems like only I am hating something universally celebrated. I like Gaiman, but I mostly read his books for children so I can't give an opinion on American Gods. Pratchett though, while not the best writer, gets a pass because his books always make me giggle? They're definitely getting to be all a bit the same, but I only read them when that's exactly what I want, so it works for me.

Another book like this though was The Forever War. Dust jacket covered in glowing quotes (one from Franzen I think!) and I thought it was dreck. It was like reading a different book than the one all the literary blurbees (blurbers?) were describing. If anyone out there knows why I'm supposed to like it, I'd appreciate an explanation, that's how mystifying the experience was.

Helen Carpenter@facebook

@pterodactgirl SOMEbody's been watching How I Met Your Mother!

Craftastrophies

@pterodactgirl Yeah, I give Pratchett a pass because his books do what they are supposed to, and I feel like he personally does not take them too seriously. Not all of them are my cup of tea, but they don't make you feel like you are a useless human being if you don't love it more than anything (although some of his fans do).

I was thinking this morning about why I don't like Magical Realism. I think maybe it's that I don't want it to be central to the plot, and I don't want it to be too... convenient. Sometimes I feel like it's cheating and filling in plotlines, or that it's like spicy food, where sometimes you have a chef who thinks that he just has to make it hot, not flavourful. I like my food flavourful first, THEN maybe hot. The same goes for disfunctional families or anything else. If there's not an actual plot there, or if all you have is little set pieces... write a play or something. I'm not interested in reading it as a book. Maybe other people are, and that's fine, but I'm not going to feel guilty for not wanting to.

@Chesty LaRue I have had that recommended to me. It's on my list. This year I swallowed all the Dianna Wynne Jones' in a big gulp - I thought I'd not read them, but it turns out a couple were books I read as a kid, couldn't remember what they were called, and have basically been looking for them ever since, they were so good.

pterodactgirl

@Helen Carpenter@facebook I totally have! And after that scene I leaned over to my roommate and whispered, "I am going to steal that line."

hairdresser on fire

@pterodactgirl I'm sneaking onto this thread so so late...to derail it ahhh!
1. H-A-T-E the early Eggers stuff, but but! Zeitoun was so intense and made me so upset I cried. I had problems with What is the What, but to similar effect. He's got an incredibly strong non-fiction voice.
2. I think what MC needs the most is a constant reference guide? Footnotes? At the very least the Wikipedia page for the Partition of India and Pakistan. I don't knowww, one of my favorite books though.
3. This is what happens when I leave my computer for more than a day. :(:(:(

Beck Rea@facebook

@Xanthophyllippa: I'm not alone! Oh, the relief! :)

Beck Rea@facebook

@antarcticastartshere: My theory on Gaiman? He's a short story writer. I honestly and truly feel that he's at his best in short story form--"Smoke and Mirrors" is incredible.

His novels do tend to get overwrought.

shovel

@andrea disaster Life of Pi really left me feeling ripped off - good writing with a stupid premise.

shovel

@RK Fire Good Omens- Yes! A book doesn't have to be the BEST EVER WRITTEN to be great fun.

shovel

@Guy DeBr0'd another David Mitchell fan! Cloud Atlas was fantastic; Thousand Autumns maybe a little too "fantastic," but I'll definitely read his next book.

Eugenides' short pieces in the New Yorker have never moved me much, so I didn't read any of his books. Franzen's Freedom - the sharp tone was entertaining, although I never believed any of his characters were real.

Any AS Byatt fans out there?

tortietabbie

@chou-chou I LOVE DAVID MITCHELL!!!!! He's my literary husband.

pterodactgirl

@chou-chou I love A.S. Byatt! I've already shilled for The Children's Book on here just this morning, and I recently got The Virgin in the Garden, but haven't started it yet. BUT I just got the email from Amazon about her new book and I'm really excited! I always wait for the paperback though because I just can't stomach the deckle-edged pages on her hardcovers. Did you read Angels and Insects? How good was that? So creepy!

(Ok, calming self now, but glad to see there are other Byatt-loving 'pinners.)

Craftastrophies

@chou-chou This. It's like movies - I'd rather watch a dumb blockbuster that does what it is meant to than a mediocre arthouse film with not much to say. Not everything has to be 'high art' to be successful, worthwhile or good.

Guy DeBr0'd

Um, you guys? Different David Mitchell! Sorry!

Craftastrophies

@Guy DeBr0'd YES. This is who I thought of.

(Hmmmm so snarky and attractive)

tortietabbie

@Guy DeBr0'd Ohhhhhhh...!

Jon Custer

I haven't read this and am not a huge Eugenides fan, but I think you may be dismissing the "meta-whatever" angle a bit too quickly here.

distrighema

Maybe it's just that I get buyer's remorse whenever I pony up for a new hardcover, but I just bought this and I've spent the first fifty pages feeling like I'm going to be bored with this one at best. Shoulda just gone to the library.

WaityKatie

Thank you for writing this. I read this whole book, right when it came out, and was greatly disappointed. From the very beginning when there was a line something like "she was beautiful in the way that all 21 year olds are beautiful," (puke), right through the super-lame and unoriginal thesis topic she had, despite being supposedly "brilliant," up through the weird derailment into semiotics, and on til the ending implication of "you shoulda picked the shlubby niiice guyyyy that you have no attraction to," I hated this book. To me, the whole thing had huge undertones of "girls always pick the assholes, wah wah wah," and almost zero character development of the supposed main female character. She was just basically serving as a blank screen for Eugenides to project his male insecurities and unfounded theories about "how women are." It almost reminded me of Philip Roth in a way, and that is not a compliment.

And this is as a pretty big fan of Middlesex, although after reading this book I had an impulse to go back and read Middlesex again to find out if I had been mistaken about its goodness. (I had a similar impulse re: Freedom v. The Corrections).

PrematureLizLemon

@WaityKatie Interesting, I read it in almost exactly the opposite way. I hated Franzen's "Freedom" because I thought he wrote down to his female characters and thought they had no right to like who they liked and should instead just choose the nice guy they are not attracted to. I thought "The Marriage Plot" validated choosing the one you want, even if it doesn't give you the storybook ending. For me, Eugenides' handling of the Mitchell situation and the ending felt realistic and non-judgmental. I do agree that Madeleine was not a character I could project myself onto, and I doubt many other women feel differently.

WaityKatie

@PrematureLizLemon I guess for me it was more that Mitchell's point of view was fully articulated, while Madeline's was just kind of "whaaa? I'm pretty! I don't know why I'm doing these things!" Totally viewed from the outside looking in. I mean, I wasn't expecting Anna Karenina exactly, but I didn't get all the critical hoopla over this book. It was a typical contemporary novel to me, maybe something to read on the beach or whatever. (although I once took a book about the Rwandan genocide to the beach, so admittedly I am not too familiar with the beach reading genre).

MousesHouse

He gets very defensive during a pretty softball interview on Fresh Air. I listened to it after finishing the book and it really changed my feelings about the book for the negative.

MousesHouse

@MousesHouse Also, I liked Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides but I never thought of them as great pieces of literature. Just...popular fiction that has sex and nostalgia and doesn't make you feel stupid. Did I miss something?

Craftastrophies

@MousesHouse This! I haven't read these particular books, but I find these days I read really negatively to a lot of the things billed as Literature. Especially Man Literature. They are often really great books, but not any greater than, say, some of the better Chic Lit (ugh, that term) that I have read, that it pitched as soft, easy stories.

bouncy castle

mumblemumble modern literature is not the same thing as contemporary literature mumblemumble

LizHo

Combined feelings of jealousy/awe/sisterhood that you managed to convey all of my thoughts about the Marriage Plot into one amazing article. Everyone I spoke to was head-over-heels for this novel and I thought I was the only one let down.

LizHo

@WaityKatie I actually did re-read Middlesex after finishing Marriage Plot and it was that good, which just served to intensify my disappointment. Middlesex still made me weep on the subway and underline sentence after sentence, marveling over how he can write.

Pound of Salt

I Am Charlotte Simmons was probably the worst novel I've ever read. Does he really think all college-aged people are so terrible?? Not one likable character!

Beck Rea@facebook

@Pound of Salt: But...but...it was so horrifyingly funny! :(

Emily R. Murrow

"Despite the various literary accolades these men have achieved, all of them seem to have some long-held, fraught Salieri complex about DFW."
THIS THIS THIS THIS! Thanks.

-----------

Fan-bloody-tastic, luv.

Maybe Franzen and Eugenides can take a page from DFW's book of "writing female characters as if they are also actually people as well as receivers of cunnilingus."

theguvnah

Well, I couldn't stand Middlesex so I saved myself the trouble and just avoided this one too.

kitkat88

You are so right about the complex these dudes have about DFW, and it makes all of their work completely unreadable to me. DFW was an amazing writer, but he also was killed by the demons in his head - whatever jealousy people had about his writing should have been tempered by the knowledge that at least some of his skill was derived from his completely unenviable mental illness. The fact that these guys don't seem to realize that makes me wonder if they have any understanding of the human condition at all.

miwome

@kitkat88 Or at least of mental illness. Anyone who has struggled with mental illness like depression or bipolar, or been close to someone who does/has, understands that any accolades are at least as painful as they are welcome.

Weirdly, I have not read any DFW (I really want to!), but my mom gave me Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself when I was struggling a lot with my then-recent bipolar diagnosis, and it was one of the most relevant and meaningful things I read at the time.

Katie Heaney

oh DAMMIT I just bought this and everything. the ONE time I buy a book I know nothing about just because I keep seeing it on Twitter.

Inconceivable!

Oh Hairpin, how well you know me. I just read this over the weekend (being a big fan of Middlesex and an average fan of Virgin Suicides) and came away very disappointed.

To be fair, the two people I know who have also read it (one man and one woman) were also not fans. So there's that.

redonion

Oh hell. My book club just picked The Marriage Plot. Well at least we'll have a lot to talk about. I already know the person who disagrees with me on everything is going to love it.

Haley Mlotek

I haven't read it, but I totally agree with the idea that if it was written by a woman it would be marketed as chick lit! And it would be made into a movie starring Katherine Heigl in like 5 seconds.

WaityKatie

@haley I know Curtis Sittenfeld was mentioned, and I actually think Prep is a great example of this phenomenon. A book (well) written from the female point of view, in my opinion a far better book than this Marriage Plot business, and it winds up marketed with a sassy pink belt on the cover and generally sort of dismissed by the critical establishment.

dracula's ghost

@WaityKatie So fucking true! Prep was so not sassy pink belt territory at all. It was actually really grim and crushing and a kind of brilliant psychological exploration of a teen girl mind. But when "teen" and "girl" come together in a plot description--and I don't care if that teen girl goes on to murder a congressman or cure cancer--on goes the pink belt and the lipstick font. UGH CITY

but of course Catcher in the Rye is about "universal" themes.

Infinite Jess

@WaityKatie Fortunately for me, the Sassy Pinkness of Prep meant it was gifted to me by conservative relatives when I was a wee teen going off to residential high school. LITTLE DID THEY KNOW.

beanie

@WaityKatie ah just had to jump in and say Curtis Sittenfeld was married to my professor, and I realized it by reading the NY Times review of her book "American Wife". He is lovely (he taught a course on the 2008 election which was amazing) and I like her books. However, Prep was not at all what I expected it to be when I got the Lilly Pulitzer cover.

Craftastrophies

@Infinite Jess Have you read any Sarah Addison Allen? She's definitely chic lit, but I feel like with a different editing process her first book, Garden Spells, could totally have been a high brow magical realism* - if she was a dude, natch. But because she's not, and it's about women, it's just fluff. And her later books have less and less core, and more fluff. It makes me really sad.

*I know I just said upthread that I can't handle magical realism, but I guess I can, in small doses and if the characters are confused enough about it? And also, I have to actually be interested in the book/characters without the magic, as well.

Infinite Jess

@Craftastrophies I have not! *Scribbles down title under list of Carson McCullers books*

I had to read a lot of Rushdie in a postcolonial lit course, mostly because my professor was from Kashmir and Kashmir references are ALL OVER Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and so I am okay with magical realism. Except I can't let go of the fact that Rushdie, as it happens, is a big old Roman Polanski supporter, and is forever tainted for me, along with Woody Allen, Natalie Portman, and Johnny Depp. So I want to see if I like magical realism in other contexts.

Craftastrophies

@Infinite Jess UGH I didn't know that but I ain't surprised at all.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories and Luka and the... something of something... are the ones for his kids that I think I might give a go, maybe. Recently I've given up on spec fic (under which I include magical realism, fantasy and sci fi) for adults. Books for kids have to at least have some plot beyond someone's 'magic sword'.

Jenny Cruise wrote a couple of books with two other authors that are pretty magically real (??). One is called the Unfortunate Miss Fortunes which was... fine. But Dogs and Godesses was great. Note: it is first a chic lit book, second magical realism. It won't change your life - I love Jenny Cruise SO MUCH, but I'd say Addison Allen's books are more literary. But it is interesting, and a good read.

Also, warning, Addison Allen's books have Real Themes. There's rape and child molestation and murder, and they sort of surprise you in the plot. It was one of the things I liked best, actually - that the world wasn't nice and pretty, that bad things happen, but those bad things aren't actually the defining points. There are characters who have been raped, but their plotline is about friendship and family. That's the world I live in. Anyway, fair warning if those things are triggering for you.

Legs Battaglia

the whole thing about how she almost dies of shame because she gave that one guy a blow job? really annoying. seriously, about a third of the book revolves around that one drunken sex act. how will she ever look at herself again! the horror!

WaityKatie

@Legs Battaglia And she can't even speak the name of what she did! Unspeakable things!!

Beck Rea@facebook

@WaityKatie Say it with us now! "BLOW JOB! BLOW JOB!" ...sorry, apparently Eve Ensler is staying with me over the holidays. :)

melis

@WaityKatie SHE CAN'T SPEAK OF IT BECAUSE HER MOUTH IS FULL

OF BLOW JOBS

Beck Rea@facebook

@melis BWAHAHAHHAAHA--ow, water up my nose--HAHAHHAHAHAAA!

wharrgarbl

@WaityKatie She what? Seriously, now? Perceptive sheaths but no dick-sucking/fellating/blowing? Argh, this book.

miwome

@wharrgarbl "Perceptive sheaths" FTW.

spauff

I just started reading The Marriage Plot and honestly what irks me is the "voice." (Though Madeleine and Leonard do have their annoying moments) It feels condescending to me. It's supposed to be a novel about post-college life (that's how I've seen it marketed anyway) but as someone who's around the same age as the characters, I feel like I'm being talked down to.

Onymous

"her inner sheath."

FUCKING INNER SHEATH?

I am so angry that some one thought that was acceptable.

On an unrelated but important note Anne McCaffery died on Monday. Sad times.

Xanthophyllippa

@Onymous "Inner sheath" is straight out of bad fanfiction. It's right up there with "throbbing member."

Craftastrophies

@Onymous Oh, jeez. I feel like a chunk of my youth just fell out. This year I reread a bunch of her books, and I shouldn't have. They were way, way too rapey and then I just felt bad about everything.

When you said 'unrelated' were you being a smartarse?

Onymous

@Craftastrophies Well authors and female voices related I guess which is why I mentioned it hear and not in the thanksgiving thread. but bitching about terrible middle aged men who want to be DFW but oh-my-god-inner-sheath unrelated.

Craftastrophies

@Onymous Right, but... I can totally imagine Anne writing something like 'inner sheath'.

miwome

@Onymous Oh NO. The Year I Was Thirteen is weeping. (I swear Dragondrums changed my life. Don't ask me how.)

miwome

@Craftastrophies I know what you mean. I'm relatively at peace with it, just because like it or not, her books meant a lot to me when I was an Early Teen, and I can't work up the dudgeon to try to revise that.

I dunno if you ever read this collection of short stories of hers, but several of them are unrelated to her longer series, and it's surprising sometimes. This one really stuck with me as a legitimately creepy/interesting sci-fi premise, which is not usually what I think of her as doing.

rocknrollunicorn

Reasons I love this article: 1) I love to rant and rave about books that other people find great 2) I loved realizing that Twilight would have been a lot better in 3rd person! Still bad, but a lot better. 3) I raced over to Merriam Webster audio pronunciation and they claim I've been saying dilettante correctly, though I see upthread that other dictionaries disagree, which I will ignore.

tao
tao

Thank you so much for posting this review. I loved Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides and I could not have hated The Marriage Plot more. I was wondering if I was just too old and tainted by my Bravo reality TV addiction so that references to Derrida (who I thought was mind-blowing when I was 22 and in grad school) now simply infuriate me, so I am relieved to see that others also feel contempt for this piece of crap novel with annoying, self-involved characters and the general stink of pretentiousness. I forgot that I read the excerpt in the New Yorker and disliked it (see above, regarding me being old and stupid from too much reality TV) so I foolishly bought the book and forced myself to read the whole thing, waiting for it to get better. I actually feel kind of embarrassed for Jeffrey Eugenides for having written it.

kylie

I think a slow clap is in order for Dreamwife Sparkleheartstar.

psychedelicate

I started reading this a few days ago and I am all, "MORE SEMIOTICS AND MENTIONS OF POST-PUNK," which maybe makes me an even worse/boring/pretentious person than Eugenides. (Although Middlesex was really, really good so I feel bad about bad-mouthing him!) I'm not that far into it, but whhenever I read about her and Leonard, I get serious secondhand embarrassment because she's playing that shit ALL WRONG.

chickaboom

I was going to respond to comments up above but I'm so overwhelmed by how many people here are hip with contemporary lit that I can't really deal with it. !!! Yay 'pinners!

I'm stuck in a foreign country for quite some time so I don't think I'll get to read The Marriage Plot any time soon, but I <3 <3 <3 Infinite Jest, loved The Corrections, was blown away by Middlesex, and thought Freedom was overrated but good, but I am afraid to read The Pale King lest it wreck my deepest love for IJ.

Alibi Jones

@chickaboom I also <3<3<3 Infinite Jest and found The Pale King to be delightful despite its unfinishedness.

Of course, I'm all AJ+DFW 4EVA, so maybe ask someone less biased.

Charlotte Emilie

Thank you so so much for this... I was so so disappointed with the Marriage Plot. The only times I thought it was good was when it was funny, which was far less than his other two books. All I could think while I was reading it was "Is he doing this on purpose!?" Fucking terrible.

Kel
Kel

AHHH thank you so much! These were EXACTLY my complaints about this (fucking) book, except that you left out the part where the only OTHER female character we spend any time with is Insufferable Feminist Asshole. Couldn't decide whether I was madder about his treatment of women or his treatment of his DFW proxy.

oshea

Longtime lurker feeling strongly enough about this to join and comment! (That or the sugar rush on which I am currently high...) I completely agree. Except that Madeleine is so facile and so un-smart and so empty-headed and rash and impetuous I'm not sure she even qualifies as a Mary-Sue. She's just a cardboard cut-out plot point. Most maddening of all - *definitely* true that if a woman wrote this it would be chick-lit. (Kind of felt like that about Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending too...) So frustrating.

Heather Hadlock@twitter

Yes yes yes I just finished this book last night and everything you say is true, as is Kel's comment above that the only other female character is an Insufferable Feminist Asshole who persecutes the loyal seeker/schlump Mitchell.

Everybody's piling on with Eugenides' mocking of literary theory in the first part, but what did that even have to do with the rest of the story? How was Madeleine's English major even relevant to her self-sabotaging choices after college? So she reads Daniel Deronda and The Portrait of a Lady, she writes a thesis about marriage novels, and she still can't recognize a terrible destructive relationship when she's in it! She never has a moment of self-awareness to say, Hmm, I'm being a bit of an Isabel Archer here - why am I throwing myself away on this creep?

Fayebelline

When I was reading and enjoying The Marriage Plot I was mad this article existed. Now I have finished and fucking hated the final scene (i'm still mad about it) and realised a lot of things about the novel and this article encapsulated them very well. I now need to go read a book with a complex female central character in it to get the taste out of my mouth.

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dirtdictator

I'm not sure that you understood the point of the book. It was a comparison of modern and classic romances. Leonard seemed like a character out of twilight because thats what he was supposed to seem like. He is the representation of modern female fantasies, a broken man that needs fixing. The characters don't need to feel like real flawed people because they weren't written that way. There is more to literature than avoiding mary sues and developing characters. You can't apply critique techniques used with fanfiction when critiquing higher level literature. Sure, maybe you didn't enjoy it, but thats because you only read what was on the page. Hemingway would be terrible if you held him to these same standards. There are some books that you need to analyze to enjoy, not just read, and The Marriage Plot is one of them.

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