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Wednesday, November 01, 2017

What’s New from Jeffrey Eugenides

Fans of Middlesex and The Marriage Plot by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Eugenides will be pleased to know that characters from those novels reemerge in his new book of short stories, Fresh Complaint. Mr. Eugenides read from this collection and answered questions October 3 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Washington, DC, in an event organized by Politics and Prose Bookstore.




The story he read aloud, "Complainers," was his way of sorting through the experience of his mother’s decline from dementia. The author explained how he wrote this story by starting with the part of his mother he knew least- her long friendship with another woman- and building the narrative around that. 


In the story "Air Mail" Mitchell, a character who is left hanging at the end of The Marriage Plot, surfaces abroad as if continuing his journey… but the date of the story reveals that the author wrote the piece in 1996, fifteen years before The Marriage Plot was published. Dr. Luce reappears in "The Oracular Vulva," a story Mr. Eugenides describes as an “outtake” from Middlesex.

Below is a sampling from the question and answer portion of this event:

Q: You have written convincingly from the point of view of a hermaphrodite, a man with bipolar disorder and a teenage girl. How do you inhabit personas different from your own?

A. You become a writer, because you don’t want to talk only about yourself and those you know but a wider human experience. Within that, I try to see each character as an individual, not an example of a type.

Q. Who are some of your favorite short story writers?

A. Alice Munroe- she packs the density of a novel into 30-40 pages.

Q. Your Pulitzer Prize winner, Middlesex, is set in Detroit, where you grew up, and that setting is integral to the novel… are there other novels set in Detroit you would recommend?

A. Them by Joyce Carol Oates; it won the National Book Award. I also set The Virgin Suicides in Detroit, without specifying that.”

Q. I love the cover design for Fresh Complaint. Did you have any say in the design?

A. Yes, the first one they showed me was a woman’s shoe with a nail for the heel… that might work for some other kind of book.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library

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