Obviously, from the title of the episode you can tell that this is all about Eugenides’ new book, The Marriage Plot. Michael Silverblatt raves about this book like no other book I have heard (granted I haven’t listened to all that many episodes of Bookworm, but still). In fact while listening to this episode, I put The Marriage Plot on hold at the library. I always planned to read it but figured I’d just get around to it some day. Now I feel more of a sense of urgency.
They talk at length about the state of marriage in the 21st century. Not as in its decline but in how it differs so much from classic literature in which women had to get married by 21 or risk spinsterhood. Eugenides set out to write a book about people getting married without having the trappings of classical literature.
It sounds wonderful.
The reason I mention this interview at all is because in the article below, Hughes talks about contemporaries of DFW using DFW as the basis for a character in their books. So, in Franzen’s Freedom, there is character who is very much like DFW (I haven’t read Freedom yet so I can’t say).
And in The Marriage Plot, there is a character who resembles DFW. When I read the excerpt of this story in The New Yorker, I had to admit he did seem an awful lot like DFW–a tobacco chewing, bandanna wearing philosopher. Eugenides had been mum about it for a while, but now, under the gentle nudging of Michael Silverblatt, he comes clean.
He admits that there are some characteristics of DFW in the character. However, he says that he didn’t know DFW all that well and the character has been kicking around since he went to college (long before he knew DFW). Tobacco chewing was rampant at Brown in the 80s apparently. But it’s a nice revelation and it ties in very well with the article.
You can listen to the show at KCRW.
[READ: December 7, 2011] “Just Kids”
I have always grouped together certain authors in my head. When there were a bunch of Jonathans publishing, I kind of lumped them together. I think of Mark Leyner and Bret Easton Ellis in the same breath. It’s fairly common, I suppose. But I never really thought of David Foster Wallace in terms of a group of authors. He seems so solitary that it’s funny to even think of him as having friends. But according to Hughes, many of today’s established authors prove to have been a part of a kind of nebulous writer’s circle. A kind of 1990’s update of Dorothy Parker’s vicious circle. But more insecure.
The article bookends with Jeffrey Eugenides. In 1983 he and Rick Moody drove to San Francisco with the intent of being writers. Five years later with no written works, Eugenides moved to Brooklyn, alone. In that same summer, Jonathan Franzen was in Queens, also feeling alone (even though he was married–unhappily) and desperate for friends and peers. And then Franzen got a fan letter from David Foster Wallace (that’s after he had written Broom of the System, but before Girl with Curious Hair) praising The Twenty-Seventh City.
Franzen and DFW became friends. To this friendship was added William T. Vollman, and David Means, also Mary Karr (whom DFW dated) and Mark Costello (who co-wrote Signifying Rappers with DFW). Later they would connect with Eugenides, Rick Moody and Donald Antrim. (more…)