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Exclusive: The First Lines of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot

By posted at 6:02 am on May 23, 2011 14

Jeffrey Eugenides became a household name among many readers thanks to Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides. Eight years after Middlesex, Eugenides has quietly become one of the most admired American novelists working today, and it’s likely that many fans are looking ahead to October, when Eugenides’s next novel, The Marriage Plot, is set to be released.

FSG’s catalog copy describes a campus/coming-of-age/love-triangle novel (some may recall the protagonist Madeleine Hanna from an excerpt that was published in the New Yorker in 2010), but the The Marriage Plot‘s first paragraph sets the stage for what may be a very bookish novel, with some serious literary name dropping and a mention of John Updike’s Couples.

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 Bronte 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-sized 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.”





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14 Responses to “Exclusive: The First Lines of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot”

  1. Joshua Korn
    at 8:25 am on May 23, 2011

    Sounds interesting. But how did he resist the temptation to write “a dollop of Trollope”?

  2. Molly
    at 9:24 am on May 23, 2011

    well I love it.

  3. @sarahspy
    at 11:56 am on May 23, 2011

    october can’t come quick enough

  4. Flavorwire » What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links That Made the Rounds in Our Office
    at 5:01 pm on May 23, 2011

    [...] McDonald’s menu items around the world — like Singapore’s McRice burger. We read the first few lines from Jeffrey Eugenides’s next novel, The Marriage Plot, which is coming out in October. We [...]

  5. Dawn.
    at 6:31 pm on May 23, 2011

    Looking forward to this. :)

  6. pointcomfort
    at 5:11 am on May 24, 2011

    English honors thesis – the marriage plot – this woman has a plan and I want to know what it is from para…1…PC

  7. Bookish « Stumble Trip Fall
    at 10:28 pm on May 24, 2011

    [...] 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 Bronte 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-sized 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.” (via The Millions). [...]

  8. As the Book World Turns…. « BookPeople's Blog
    at 5:01 pm on May 27, 2011

    [...] Millions has the first paragraph from one of the highly anticipated books coming out of the BEA zone, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The [...]

  9. TILTS, links, a long goodbye - anecdotes
    at 12:21 am on May 31, 2011

    [...] opening of Jeffrey Eugenides’s upcoming The Marriage Plot. I want it [...]

  10. I am SO excited… « The World, According to Me.
    at 12:35 pm on June 3, 2011

    [...] Read an excerpt here. [...]

  11. GWAPIRC, Franzen, Eugenides … and a garage door « pages et cetera
    at 9:01 am on June 9, 2011

    [...] EUGENIDES A sneak peak at Jeffrey Eugenides’ upcoming novel, The Marriage Plot. Looking forward to it. Big fan of [...]

  12. Summer Reads
    at 8:08 pm on July 6, 2011

    [...] a long time coming. Nine years after the publication of Middlesex, The Marriage Plot (The Millions took an exclusive look at the first lines), will deal, in Eugenides’ own words with “religion, depression, the [...]

  13. Of e-books, birthday gifts, and brown trout « EditWrite
    at 5:26 pm on August 24, 2011

    [...] deeply in a relationship. (I’m of course saying nothing new here; look no further than the opening lines of The Marriage Plot for a more elegant tribute to the emotional power of books.) And they matter most when you [...]

  14. #27 The Marriage Plot « LAVIDARETIRADA.COM
    at 8:03 am on October 3, 2011

    [...] sabe esperar. En fin, la espera se acabó, el 11 de octubre se lanza la novela de Eugenides, y en este link pueden leer las primeras páginas, gente buena. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); [...]

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