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No reason to care about these characters
on April 10, 2013
Eugenides' writing consisted almost entirely of name dropping and references to literature, philosophy, religion, Providence, Brown U, Paris, India, semiotics, wine, beer, yeast, mental illness, and on and on. I could have handled this if there were some reason to care about any one of the navel-gazing, spoiled characters. Many of the characters were described in a few pages and then never came up again, adding nothing to the story. After reading just 40 pages I realized how tedious the pretentiousness was, but I wanted to finish it for my book club (it was recommended because of his book, Middlesex). I read through it quickly, skipping over paragraphs intended to impress the reader with descriptions of what he thinks was cool in the '80s, but the end could not come fast enough. It was just boring up to the end because there was no reason to laugh with or cry for any one of the characters.
Update after book group discussion: The group's comments were mostly consistent with my thoughts. However, one point did come up which I did not comprehend until our discussion. Eugenides described manic depression very well. We felt he had a personal understanding of it - either himself or someone close to him. It was as though he did not need to research it to just make passing references - he just knew it. We wished he had gone into as much depth with the other main characters as he did with Leonard. If he had, maybe we would have cared more about them.