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The Group: Based on the Book by Mary McCarthy

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: The First Paragraph


Updated 1/16/2018

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph of a novel she decided to read based on that paragraph. That is definitely the case for me with the opening of Jeffrey Eugenides book The Marriage Plot. Here's my take on the book which I'm still waiting to come to the big screen. It was optioned by producer Scott Rudin in 2011, director Greg Mottola was hired in 2012. Nothing since then. I'm working up the courage to tackle his Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex. Anyway, here's the opening of The Marriage Plot...pretty enticing, wouldn't you say?

‘‘To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoubtable Bronte sisters. There were a whole lot of black-and-white New Directions paperbacks, mostly poetry by people like H.D. or Denise Levertov. There were the Colette novels she read on the sly. There was the first edition of Couples, belonging to her mother, which Madeleine had surreptitiously dipped into back in sixth grade and which she was using now to provide textual support in her English honors thesis on the marriage plot. There was, in short, this mid-sized but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeleine had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn’t trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for “Artistic,” or “Passionate,” thinking you could live with “Sensitive,” secretly fearing “Narcissistic” and “Domestic,” but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: “Incurably Romantic.”