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Maladjusted Readers Fall in Love (Anniversary Edition)

October 17, 2011

I know you’re all waiting with baited breath about the next Maladjusted Book Club selection, especially because this October, the Maladjusted Book Club turns O-N-E.

No, you weren’t? You were busy? You were excited to pick your own books to read?

Too bad. This next one is making me gush, it’s so delicious. Somewhere in Chicago, Jeffrey Eugenides has an artist’s cove, probably a lot more lavish than mine. (He did win the Pulitzer Prize, after all.) For the past few years, he sat up there and wrote me a love letter.

Okay, so maybe he wasn’t directing it to me, per se. But it sure as hell feels like me. His latest book, The Marriage Plot, is so funny, honest, and smart, it makes you want to crawl under the covers and stay there for a very long time. You probably won’t even care that the days are becoming shorter and you wake up in a dark morning. If you are or were an English major, this is one you can’t miss. The only problem is that when you finish, there are no other novels exactly like it.

I’ll be honest: this is the first time I’m enjoying Eugenides this much. After watching the movie The Virgin Suicides years ago, I tried to read the book. But Sofia Coppola did such a good job of translating it into film, I gave up after 50 pages. I wanted to read a story I didn’t already know.

I bought into all the hype surrounding Eugenides’ second novel, Middlesex, and eagerly started it the summer I moved into my house. I became bored, though, and put it down, only to pick it up a few months later and force myself to finish it. After 100 pages or so, that was easier, but the novel still wasn’t my favorite. I admired the writing and understood completely why it was lauded as a great American novel, how it spoke to the American immigrant experience. And yet, I had wanted a little more hermaphroditism. (It’s what the book promised, right?) Also, where was all the sex?

The Marriage Plot, however, is an entirely different entity. Eugenides follows three college students about to graduate, making fun of their professors, their roommates, their relationships with the opposite sex, their egos. But he also tries to delve into what makes them fall in love, what dreams they have as they embark on a new path after graduation. That story premise is appealing enough to me, but what makes it even better is all the talk about books and the way readers respond to those books, whether they be about Victorian figures, postmodern theory, religion or philosophy. In a recent interview in the Huffington Post, Eugenides says, “This book is about reading…. I think, especially when you’re in college, each book that you’re reading tends to tell you who you are.” That’s definitely how I felt then, when I was just starting to discover the magic of literature, and it holds true for me now.

So here you are, Maladjusted Readers. Our Fall 2011 pick. I can’t think of a better choice for our first anniversary.

(We’ll be discussing Monday, December 12th. Leave a comment if you’re, you know, in.)

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