Friday, April 4, 2014

[Revew] The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis: A town speculates on the multiple suicides of five suburban girls obsessively.

What is there to really say about this book? The title and cover recommends itself and Jeffrey Eugenides has made great strides in the literary world. There is a movie adaptation to this book, which is currently on my to-watch-list on Netflix.

Seriously, I can't think of the first thing to really say about this novel so this is going to be one of my shortest reviews so far. I haven't really made up my mind as to whether I liked it or not. Don't get me wrong, Eugenides can write. Though I couldn't help but feel that he knew a little TOO well exactly what to write. This is the kind of writing that cultural elitists really get themselves hot over. It's packed to the brim with imagery and symbolism and narrated in the rare first-person plural.

Is Eugenides exploitative? Definitely, and I think that's why he always rubs me the wrong way. When I first read Middlesex a few years ago, I thought it was a great book, but upon reflecting and reading interviews, Eugendies only used the protagonist's ambiguous gender as a literary device, and I felt like he did the same here with the Lisbon sisters in Virgin Suicides. The narrative style left little empathy for them and a great need to know why the girls committed suicide. I think with a few readings, one could try to glean over all the details and come to some conclusion, but I don't think there is a reason why, or if there is, it won't be entirely satisfying.


Suicide then, becomes a means to an artistic end. I'm not crying out in moral outrage or anything (though I can imagine some people will), but I can't help but feel that Jeffrey Eugenides is sitting in some some comfy armchair somewhere and smiling rather pretentiously to himself as he reflects on his own gifted literary abilities.

It was more enjoyable than it was off-putting, so there's that. Some people will love it, some will hate it, I am ambivalent.

There was on quotation in particular that I want to point out.
"We could never understand why the girls cared so much about being mature, or why they felt compelled to compliment each other, but sometimes, after one of us had read a long portion of the diary out loud, we had to fight back the urge to hug one another or to tell each other how pretty we were. We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together... 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."
Like I said, this guy just rubs me the wrong way. I could talk about how exploitation is a real theme in this story, particularly in how the girl's are idolized and objectified to the point where who the girls really were didn't matter so much as the stories and fantasies the narrators as well as the rest of the town spun to suit their own fancy. Did the suicides have to be pretty teenage white girls? Yes, yes it did because pretty teenage white girls are placed upon pedestals and worshiped, and if the nation's object of desire and envy, then it is as theorized in the novel, "the Lisbon girls became symbol of what was wrong with the country". It isn't titled Virgin Suicides because the girls were all virgins (they weren't), but merely for its symbolism, just like how all the girls' deaths were commemorated, even though one of the sisters Mary, survived the attempt. Eugenides is clever, I'll give him that.

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