Monday, September 19, 2011

What I've Finished Reading: The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides is a novel that hides nothing.

It announces right up front what’s going to happen and then dares the reader to continue. And the pure brilliance of this novel is that I want to go on. Because while I know the whats and sometimes even the hows of the future actions, it’s the why which keeps me hooked. Well, that and Eugenides amazing lyrical voice.

There are passages hidden within the continual narrative that simply sing.

It’s like … like what? Oh, like the small crowds in 1864 who gathered for a hillside picnic as a civil war battle formed in the field below. They came to watch “the spectacle” only to find horror. Yet, in that horror unfolding before their eyes, someone sees a minor detail – something so brief and insignificant but at the same time inspirational in all the death and destruction and hopelessness.

The Virgin Suicides gives that moment of beauty. Within the isolation of its main characters. And the vagueness of the private lives of others. And finally in the  senseless unexplained deaths. The novel shies away from none of this, knowing that in the sadness of all these details is, somehow, a celebration of life.

As a reader, I’m powerless to alter a single event. And in many ways, I separate myself from it all – it’s simply a novel. It’s not real. These are not people. Yet … yet … I suppose the fact that in the end I do care is a testament to the power of the writing. Eugenides makes me care.

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