I recently had the chance to see Jeffrey Eugenides speak when he visited Indianapolis as part of the Butler University Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writer Series. Eugenides has written three novels, all of which I’ve read, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book Middlesex.
He read a new unpublished short story called “Find the Bad Guy.” It was about a Texan and his German wife trying to make a marriage work despite a mid-life crisis. Throughout the reading he used accents for each of the characters. It was perfect! Within moments he had the whole audience laughing along with him.
After the reading he answered quite a few audience questions. He talked about his different novels and how each one focused on a different part of storytelling.
The Virgin Suicides – Language and Voice (the “we” voice)
Middlesex – Plot Driven
The Marriage Plot – Character Driven
As his skill as a writer increased he chose to take each book in a new direction. For example, when he finished Middlesex he realized he wanted to write a book that gave the reader a look into the characters’ inner monologue, hence The Marriage Plot.
I loved hearing about the journey that Middlesex took from originally being conceived as a short novel to becoming a mock epic. He thought it would be much shorter when he first began to research it. With each of his books he crafts intricate stories, painting vivid descriptions of his characters’ lives, and infusing the story with humor despite the serious situations.
He also uses pieces of his own life in his novels. His Greek heritage, his travels, his childhood in Michigan, each book bears the stamp of his own life experiences. He spoke a bit about creating the characters in The Marriage Plot. He said that much of that book was based on his time in college. Mitchell particularly had many of the same experiences that Eugenides had in college. He traveled in Europe and India and even spent some time working for Mother Theresa.
Each of his books is so unique and provides a different feel with each new story. Whether you love the books or not, you can’t deny that they make you think and offer you something new and original. I can’t wait to read whatever he writes next.
Photos by me and my friend.