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Jeffrey Eugenides was born and raised in Detroit. He graduated from Brown University with an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford.
He is a private person, but he loves talking about his city. “I think most of the major elements of American history are exemplified in Detroit, from the triumph of the automobile and the assembly line to the blight of racism, not to mention the music, Motown, the MC5, house, techno.” He bemoans the decline of Detroit.
He lives in Princeton, New Jersey now and has joined the faculty at Princeton University’s Program in Creative writing.
I first began to be interested in Eugenides’ work, when I saw the movie The Virgin Suicides back in 1999. I think it was the first movie directed by Sofia Coppola. The film generated the early interest in Eugenides work. The Virgin Suicides was published in 1993 and reissued in 2009.
The book is a haunting and evocative work, which succinctly sets out the dilemma of life and death and the choice, as Kurt Cobain made, of checking out “on top” or continuing to live on: “What lingered after them was not life, but the most trivial list of mundane facts: a clock ticking on a wall, a room dim at noon, and the outrageousness of a human being thinking only of herself”.
The book garnered critical praise, but it was not until the publication of Middlesex in 2002 that Eugenides became a household name (sort of). He won the Pulitzer Prize for that book. “The book is a fascinating story of the Greek-American immigrant experience in the United States, against the rise and fall of Detroit. It explores the experience of the inter-sexed in the USA.” [Wikipedia] It is a fascinating and disturbing book, dealing with subjects that are generally taboo in American culture, but genuinely deserve our interest, and at times, compassion.
Eugenides has also published lots of short stories, many of which have appeared in the New Yorker. By the way, if you subscribe to the New Yorker, get the iPhone app and you can browse, search and read every story ever published in The New Yorker since its date of publication. Try searching for Nabokov. It is a rewarding experience.
Eugenides’ third and latest novel is the just-published The Marriage Plot (available at the Wellington Square Bookshop at 20% off). This book is a departure of sorts for Eugenides and has been called “[T]he most entertaining campus novel since Wolfe’s I am Charlotte Simmons”. The novel begins on graduation day at Brown University in 1982 and I’ll leave it at that.
Eugenides’ next work will be a compilation of short stories, presumably new ones.
Overall Eugenides is a very accessible writer, yet his works continue to resonate long after you’ve finished them. He, like most of my favorite authors, leaves a lot of work left for the reader. His endings are not tidy packages wrapped in brown paper and string (as we do here in the bookshop!) but ravels of musings, indeterminates and questions, left for the reader to ponder and argue about at Book club sessions, many of which are held here. (where we offer coffee and bakery items. Boy! I am really plugging this place).
In any event, drop in and see us, look for our coupon in this issue of and each month I will try to bring you up to date, notwithstanding my pre-existing procrastinatory ways, on an author of interest to me, and hopefully to you.
You can also listen to me interview top-selling authors on WCHE 1520AM every Monday at 5, and access the shows on iTunes by typing The Avid reader, or an author’s name. You will come up with our podcasts. I’ve interviewed over sixty authors thus far, and love doing the show. If you want you can listen to me talk for 60 hours straight (I would then refer you back to The Virgin Suicides!).
Also, come visit our sister emporium, The OtherColors art gallery, just one door down from the bookshop. We have gallery openings every six weeks or so, including opening night parties with wine and hors d’oeuvres. Right now we are featuring the work of Portia Mortensen.
We all hope that you will continue to patronize all of the fine shops in Eagleview, come to the concerts, enjoy Brickside and Nudys and keep abreast of all the activity going on in “our town”. We greatly appreciate it and hope you get lots out of it too.