Monday, June 14, 2010

"Marvelling At Its Relevance To Her Life"

The cool people these days are pontificating about The New Yorker's list of "20 Under 40" fiction writers, but I'm a little behind on my New Yorker reading and haven't gotten around to cracking the Summer Fiction issue yet. So, I just wanted to say that I hope the story in the previous week's issue, "Extreme Solitude" by Jeffrey Eugenides, doesn't get lost in all the 20 Under 40 hoopla!

I really enjoyed this one--perhaps for the selfish reason of being able to relate to the main character, Madeleine, a student at Brown University who is trying to figure out love, sex, intimacy, and postmodern literary theory. But I do love it when male writers are able to create female characters that I can wholeheartedly relate to. And I laughed out loud at the following passage:
[Madeleine's] freshman roommate, Jennifer Boomgaard, had rushed off to Health Services the first week of school to be fitted for a diaphragm. Unaccustomed to sharing a room with anybody, much less a stranger, Madeleine felt that Jennifer was a little too quick with her intimacies. She didn't want to be shown Jennifer's diaphragm, which reminded her of an uncooked ravioli, and she certainly didn't want to feel the spermicidal jelly that Jennifer offered to squirt into her palm. Madeleine was frankly shocked when Jennifer started going to parties with the diaphragm already in place, when she wore it to the Harvard-Brown game, and when she left it one morning on top of their miniature fridge. That winter, when the Reverend Desmond Tutu came to campus for an anti-apartheid rally, Madeleine asked Jennifer on their way to see the great cleric, "Did you put your diaphragm in?" They lived the next four months in a twenty-by-fifteen room without speaking to each other.
Also, did the character of Leonard in this story (Madeleine's love interest) make anyone else think of David Foster Wallace? I mean, he's an overachieving, somewhat obsessive, double-majoring, tall guy who chews tobacco--sound familiar? And according to this interview, Eugenides is a Wallace fan...

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