What encore does Jeffrey Eugenides perform following his 2003 Pulitzer Prize for the universally acclaimed Middlesex
? Writing an even better book. The Marriage Plot
may initially underwhelm, as Eugenides’ detailed narration of one college clique’s graduation week at Brown University resembles an elitist scrapbook illustrating his brilliantly tight first novel, he Virgin Suicides
. Once off-campus, each graduate individuates their mainstream personalities---
biologist Leonard Bankhead’s collapse into manic depression, Madeline Hanna’s confrontation with her insular WASP heritage, Larry Pleshette’s homosexual promiscuity and Mitchell Grammaticus’ surprisingly un-cliched spiritual pilgrimage throughout India and Calcutta. Even Eugenides’ literary name-dropping serves a subtle purpose: To obscure his psycho-literary exploration of the American split personality between the Puritanism of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
and the scientist’s amorality in Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith
. More here than meets the eye!