Jessica Grose in Slate:
It’s been nearly a decade since Jeffrey Eugenides released his Pulitzer Prize-winning, Oprah’s Book Club-approved, mega blockbuster novel Middlesex. The writer’s highly anticipated new novel, The Marriage Plot, is getting the promotion one would expect for such a long-awaited work, including a cowboy-style billboard in Times Square. Eugenides’ varmint-killing pose is a strange juxtaposition considering his new novel’s plot: It’s about a love triangle among three highly intellectual Brown University students in the early ‘80s named Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell. Madeleine is a beautiful, semiotics-obsessed WASP who totes a copy of Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse around with her wherever she goes; Madeleine is in love with Leonard, her charismatic, brilliant, and mentally ill classmate; Mitchell, a sensitive soul from Detroit, is hopelessly devoted to Madeleine. The novel follows the three twentysomethings in their senior year of college and into their freshman year of life.
Slate spoke to Eugenides about whether or not Leonard is based on David Foster Wallace (an issue of some dispute), his own post-collegiate malaise, and his daily writing routine.
Slate: What made you decide to use your alma mater, Brown, as a setting?
Jeffrey Eugenides: I was going to set it at a different college. At a fictionalized college. Then I started writing it, and it seemed too much trouble for what it was worth. I knew Brown better.