Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Marriage Plot

Thanks to Ms. K for hosting a lovely May BC!  The Saint was back in effect after her authorized one-month maternity leave, and hopefully at some point the little Saintlet will make an appearance, too!  And.... yet another book club bebe' has arrived!  Congratulations to Logan's Run on the birth of William!!   We expect you to be back next month.

We started off with Indian street food inspired "millet puffs," seasoned with turmeric, fresh curry leaves and Reshampati chili powder (oh, and marshmallows, natch), followed by a selection of several different Pitfire pizzas, including a greens egg and ham version that was topped with braised rapini, prosciutto and a fried farm egg on top, a green salad, and a scruptious hot fruit crumble with a dollop of vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Lish!
Indian street food inspired snacks.  How Mitchell Grammaticus.

On to the book.  Jeffrey Eugenides' long-awaited first novel since 2002, The Marriage Plot, garnered an average rating just short of 7.5.  Of the six of us, four ranked it in the "8's."  The other two ratings were lackluster 5's and 6's.  El Jefe suspects that there might have been some tendency towards grade inflation here:  either due to confusion caused by the book's deliberately misleading cover (the author is a Pulitzer Prize winner, not the book itself!), or due to a sense of loyalty towards Mr. Eugenides, who for the past ten years has been lauded as a BC favorite.  (And if someone doesn't send in that review of Middlesex...).  Now, just because El Jefe was one of the lowballers, she's not trying to undermine the majority who rated the book highly.  Rather, El Jefe is simply making the observation that when we got into the meat of the discussion, the actual commentary didn't hold up to the scores.  On the upside, several people did appreciate and enjoy that the book was set on a liberal arts college campus.  Although it took place before our own college years (the book was set in the 1980s), people found it to be funny and nostalgic.  Ah, to read about the foibles and pretensions of college seniors as they angsted over post-structuralism and breakups, religious studies and keg parties!  Another interesting observation was regarding the parallels and contrasts that could be drawn between Madeleine's choice of women's studies for her major, and her tendency to be anything but a strong woman.  She followed Leonard around like a groupie, let her own ambitions languish on his behalf, and generally was indecisive and passive.  Surely these ironies weren't incidental, but were deliberately plotted out in advance by the author and included as discussion-worthy tidbits for the insightful book clubs who pick up on them.  And, Eugenides' treatment of Leonard's mental illness was unanimously described as masterful:  how he led the reader to the darkest places in Leonard's tortured psyche, and broke our hearts with Madeleine's futile attempt to gain control over the disease.  But beyond those few points, there wasn't much more that we liked.  The characters were annoying.  Derrida is annoying.  Madeleine's thesis (or lack thereof) was annoying.  And most basically, what the heck was this book about?  "A novel about life, love and discovery."  "A story about being young and bright and lost."  "A robust rich story of adults in a love triangle."  "A confection for English majors and book lovers."  (All from's editorial reviews).  Oy.  All we said was that it wasn't as good as Middlesex.

Fashionably dressed students at South Shields Marine and Technical College in the 1980s.

Short shorts in college baskball... if only!

Even smarter than El Jefe in the '80s.

 Who can you spot on campus at Brown University?

Our next meeting regularly-scheduled meeting will be at Georgia's home.  We are reading Already Dead:  A California Gothic, by Denis Johnson.  Apps and dessert to be arranged by separate email.  Until next time, read early and often!  xoej

A contemporary noir, Already Dead is the tangled story of Nelson Fairchild Jr., disenfranchised scion to a northern California land fortune. A relentless failure, Nelson has botched nearly every scheme he's attempted to pull off. Now his future lies in a potentially profitable marijuana patch hidden in the lush old-growth redwoods on the family land.