Discovering a great book is one of the best things ever. There’s nothing like enjoying a good story, unique characters and surprising descriptions (that kind that you have to read twice to cherish every word). A book that you end up recommending to everyone. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides was my summer discovery. The American author won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for Middlesex (next on my list), and his first work, The Virgin Suicides, was adapted to the screen by Sofia Coppola. He’s one of the best writers today.
The Marriage Plot revolves around Madeleine, a girl about to graduate from college, her relationship with her bipolar boyfriend Leonard, and her non-relationship with Mitchell, a classmate that is in love with her. Madeline is writing her thesis about the marriage plot in novels, particularly in the Victorian age. Leonard struggles with the symptoms of his disorder while he tries to finish college and keep his job. Mitchell is looking for his sense of existence travelling around the world. The book is so well written that sometimes you seem to be in that Religious Studies class, and even participate in the debates proposed by the teacher. The characters are not perfect, but Eugenides manages you to understand their weaknesses and flaws, something that I find really hard to achieve in a book. The writer was inspired by his own experiences for some of the parts of the novel, as he also volunteered with Mother Theresa in Calcutta.
In an interview Jeffrey Eugenides told the secret to be a good writer: no matter what you’re writing, you have to think that it is a letter to your most intelligent friend. Don’t be condescending. Don’t give superfluous explanations. Don’t write for an audience or readership, write for the reader as an individual. Set your aspirations high.
“To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoubtable Brontë sisters. There were a whole lot of black-and-white New Directions paperbacks, mostly poetry by people like H.D. or Denise Levertov. There were the Colette novels she read on the sly. There was the first edition of Couples, belonging to her mother, which Madeleine had surreptitiously dipped into back in sixth grade and which she was using now to provide textual support in her English honors thesis on the marriage plot. There was, in short, this mid-size but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeleine had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn’t trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for “Artistic,” or “Passionate,” thinking you could live with “Sensitive,” secretly fearing “Narcissistic” and “Domestic,” but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: ”Incurably Romantic.” – The Marriage Plot
Even though a book mustn’t be judged by its cover, I must say that the different versions they’ve made for The Marriage Plot editions are really original. A good use of typography offers endless possibilities. I wish it was a more general trend.
To add the final touch to literature, here you have some vintage inspired prescription glasses. My favourites: Persol and Ralph Lauren.
Photos: Mister Spex