Get ready to feel old. To be honest, when I re-read the novel earlier this month, I had no idea that it had a big anniversary coming up; I was just in-between books, trying to decide what to read next, and came across an old copy on my shelf. I picked it up and idly read the first three pages; I knew after that I would read it through to the end.
Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides is a brutally beautiful masterpiece of decay, loss, longing, and regret that can still break your heart. Oct Eager readers of the early '90s had, of course, been inundated by a range of renditions of the romantic inevitability of Shakespeare's Romeo and Julietand the eternal longings in the works of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton never failed to make their way into high school freshman college English literature classes.
Adolescence is tough. Just ask teen drama queens like Bella Swan and Elsa. The sisters, held like prisoners in the house by a domineering, repressive mother, gradually waste away from the isolation and hopelessness.
In an interview with the Paris Review inJeffrey Eugenides admitted that the title of his career-launching debut, The Virgin Suicideswas meant to elicit a strong reaction. The story unfolds during a hot s summer, somewhere around Detroit. Cecilia, the youngest Lisbon sister, slashes her wrists but is rescued before she bleeds to death. The Virgin Suicides made an impact nearly as dramatic.
The fictional story, which is set in Grosse Pointe, Michigan during the s, centers on the lives of five sisters, the Lisbon girls. The novel is written in first person plural from the perspective of an anonymous group of teenage boys who struggle to find an explanation for the Lisbons' deaths. Eugenides told 3am Magazine : "I think that if my name hadn't been Eugenides, people wouldn't have called the narrator a Greek chorus".
But that might just be the case for Sofia Coppola: The Virgin Suicidesreleased this week in a new Criterion Collection editionwas such a confident debut in that it immediately announced her as a generational talent, a status she cemented with her Oscar-winning follow-up, Lost in Translation. In the book, the young men are beginning to think about the mysteries of sex and womanhood, and they project all of their questions and anxieties onto this strange household that eventually takes on a sort of folkloric status. The book begins with a tragedy the youngest daughter, Cecilia, attempts suicide and then succeeds on her second try and ends with something even more horrifying; but, as Coppola noted, the story is too surreal and wryly funny to ever be truly hard-hitting.
Jeffrey Eugenides's piercing first novel begins with a startling and horrible event: a year-old girl hurls herself out of a window and impales herself on the iron fence that runs around her family's house. Eugenides's narrator recalls, "whether her brain continued to flash on the way down, or if she regretted what she'd done, or if she had time to focus on the fence spikes shooting toward her. Her mind no longer existed in any way that mattered.
Somebody out of touch with reality. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving….
There is a photo of me at my second Christmas. Around me is so much swag that some of it towers above me, while an array of smaller boxes make me a little Godzilla, stomping around my city of gifts. I like to tease my parents about this photo.
THE ironic tone of this lyrical but highly comic debut novel is established in its opening two sentences: 'On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide - it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese - the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope. They got out of the EMS truck, as usual moving much too slowly in our opinion, and the fat one said under his breath, 'This ain't TV folks, this is how fast we go]' '. From a chance conversation with a babysitter, who told him how as teenagers she and her sisters all attempted suicide, Eugenides has fashioned an eccentric, amusing and moving American fantasy, set in the leafy suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where he spent his own teenage years.