Yesterday we received a Fall 2011 preview from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Without a doubt, the title we’re buzzing about the most is Jeffrey Eugenides‘ new novel, The Marriage Plot, which comes out in October. (Let me put it this way: If we had known last week that this novel would be out in 2011, we would have added it to our most-anticipated books list.)
Here’s what we know about the book so far: In July, Jonathan Galassi interviewed Eugenides on FSG’s Work in Progress blog, and at that point the author refused to divulge the title. Here’s what he would say as far as plot description—although at the time the novel was not finished:
I don’t quite know how to describe it. A college love story? Maybe. It begins on graduation day, in 1982, and involves three main characters. The sweep of the action takes place over the next year or so, as the characters begin their lives outside the university gates. The book deals, among other things, with religion, depression, the Victorian novel, and Roland Barthes. I really don’t like to talk about it. It’s about 400 pages long so far, and two-thirds done. I don’t think it will be a long book, not as long as Middlesex, anyway. It’s different from my other books. More tightly dramatized, less fanciful. What else? It’s not a Detroit book, not this time. Though one of the characters comes from Detroit, the new book ranges in setting from Providence, Rhode Island, and Cape Cod to Calcutta.
This entire interview is worth a read, as Eugenides has some interesting things to say about writing autobiographically.
Another hint: Back in 2004, at the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday, Eugenides wrote a piece for Slate on the “Death of the Western Novel.” In this essay, he wrote specifically about how multicultural novels can still include “the marriage plot” as opposed to novels from the West, where marriage isn’t necessarily permanent and it’s no big deal if you never marry at all.
He wrote: “You can be an Indian novelist or a Jordanian novelist and still avail yourself of the greatest subject the novel has ever had. Arranged marriages, dowries, social stigma at divorce—it’s all back again, in perfect working order.” He also implied that this subject matter is a bit stale, explaining that there are “consequences” to using the marriage plot when it’s been around for so many years.
By critiquing the “marriage plot” in multicultural novels—and also claiming that this subject matter is lost in American fiction—I do think Eugenides has set the bar rather high by naming his own American novel “The Marriage Plot.”
Needless to say, we can’t wait to get our hands on it. You?
Also in BookPage: Read a review of Middlesex, Eugenides’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.