By Matthew Jacobs
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Author Jeffrey Eugenides identifies three sources that prompt someone to fall in love: divine inspiration, biology and Hugh Grant movies.
He dissects how we fall in love in “The Marriage Plot,” which brought him to DUMBO’s powerHouse Arena on Sept. 21 to launch a tour touting the novel’s paperback release. Eugenides read a passage and fielded questions about his Greek-American background, the chances of a “Marriage Plot” sequel (“It never occurred to me”) and the books that influenced him when he was young.
“When I was a child, I think it was either ’F Troop’ or ‘Gilligan’s Island’ that was a major influence,” he said. “I don’t actually remember. I wasn’t one of those kids that read lots of books that I remember.”
The event marked a return to Brooklyn for the Detroit-born Eugenides, who lived in the borough throughout much of the 1990s as he began the first draft of “Middlesex.” The wildly popular effort earned him the Pulitzer Prize, an entry in Oprah’s Book Club and the top spot on a slew of 2003 best-of lists.
The reading also marked his first appearance at the powerHouse Arena, which opened in 2006 and has attracted lauded authors like Edmund White, Brooklyn native Jonathan Lethem and Salman Rushdie. Eugenides visited the Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene last year to promote the original release of “The Marriage Plot.”
Eugenides’ first novel, “The Virgin Suicides,” published in 1993, earned nearly universal applause. Now “The Marriage Plot” is spurring renewed interest after receiving significant acclaim last year.
“When the hardback comes out, you have to deal with the reviews,” he said. “The only beautiful moment is the paperback tour. So I’m happy to be here tonight, very much so.”
In answering audience members’ questions, the 52-year-old author said he drew on his college years when writing “The Marriage Plot,” which is set at Brown University in the early 1980s. The author said it’s rare to see the American college experience treated with “humor, candor and seriousness” in literature.
“The book tells a story closer to my own sense of myself as an American,” Eugenides said when comparing “Plot” to his previous two novels.
Eugenides said he tends to want to “flee” from a book he’s written once it’s complete, making it unlikely he’d pursue a sequel to “Plot” that offers a more definitive depiction of where protagonists Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell end up.
He collected several hearty laughs from the audience throughout his appearance and drew a long line of fans eager for him to sign copies of his novels. Lena Valencia, events coordinator at powerHouse Arena, said Eugenides is a favorite author among the bookstore’s staff and customers.
“When we found out the paperback was coming out in September, right around the time of the [Brooklyn Book Festival], we thought it would be great to have him in the store, where everyone could meet him and have his book signed,” she said.