Well this is embarrassing. As much as I love being OFFICIALLY MENTIONED BY THE TOURNAMENT OF BOOKS, I am subsequently shamed by my sometimes (often) less than average reviews (excerpt: “I like the way the words are good and stuff?”) and our less frequent than desirable update schedule. Which is why this week there will be a TOURNAMENT BLITZ! Today I’m going to talk about the Saturday’s match up of The Marriage Plot and Green Girl. TOMORROW I will chat (not to be confused with chatz) about The Art of Fielding vs. Open City with previously unmentioned and current-reigning newest employee (knocking me off my perch; alas that excuse for poor service is gone) Vivienne! She will will totes have a bunch to say Open City and the previously eliminated though-none-the-less-great-for-it The Cat’s Table AND she will probably do it with effortless style and grace. And then, my friends, AND THEN! Sunflower foreign correspondent (previously humble worker) Fay is going to discuss the semifinals thus far from Venice. Venice you guys! Clearly she cares about this thing too much. And after (but super hopefully not) The Marriage Plot beats the much superior Open City, Fay and I will battle it out in a WAR OF WORDS over why The Marriage Plot is the worst. Or at least I’LL be saying that, she loved that book! Great minds and poor reviewers (well one at least) will clash and ONLY ONE SHALL EMERGE.
All of which means, of course, that I’ll be saving my choicest arguments about this match up till then. And I haven’t read Green Girl so this one might be short. Green Girl is another one of those books that, like Lightning Rods, is just not available in Australia, meaning to read it I’d have to buy it through America. I shall leave the (very reasonable) rants about the conservativeness of the Australian publishing industry to Fay. Anyway like Lightning Rods, I couldn’t justify to myself buying it for the shop, meaning I’d have to buy it for myself. And LET ME TELL YOU while studying a useless discipline and working part time in a bookshop might SOUND like the glamorous life of a jetsetter, appearances can be deceiving. In short, I’m cheap so I haven’t read it. BUT it certainly sounds interesting! I am not really a reader of experimental fiction, not because of particular taste but rather because I don’t KNOW any but I am willing to start with that one (even if the judge, and others, were not the fondest). Aaand that’s as far as I can stretch talking about how I haven’t read a book.
The Marriage Plot, however, I DID read. And there was nothing SUPER wrong with it. A large chunk of my visceralreaction against it is probs just because of how much Fay loved it. But you know what THERE WAS NOTHING TO LOVE. It was ordinary, the mainest of main characters was barely a character, Mitchell was irritating (though it certainly seemed like Eugenides loved him) and the whole thing was just inconsequential. The first part of the book was orright but it reminded me of a weaker version of Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow, which, conversely I LOVED, and the rest of it, whatevs. OK Mr. Eugenides was trying to write a late modern (it weren’t postmodern let me tell you!) version of a marriage plot but who gives a shit? And then in the third (roughly) third I felt like it became too disjointed and lost all its momentum. Oh yeah summaries we’re still trying to do that. The Marriage Plot follows three characters as they graduate from college in the early 1980s. There’s Madeline (the problematic one), a Victorian/regency literature lover who is no fan of Derrida (fair). Mitchell (the annoying one) is totes in love with her or at least he idealises/idolises her, but she just wants to be his friend/is happy for him to like her. Then there’s Leonard (the good one), the charming, bi-polar science student who Madeline falls in love with. The book follows their college travails and bla de bla. LET IT BE KNOWN that I have no problem with that as a plot. And LET IT BE KNOWN that Eugenides writes totes good like (there that Steven reviewing skill is again!). And LET IT BE KNOWN that I do not know what it is like to finish university and be thrown into the world like a child into the swimming pool, sans floaties, and so I obviously cannot appreciate the oft-commented-on way that Eugenides describes that post university feeling (very well apparently). And LET IT BE KNOWN I wanted to enjoy it. But unfortunately, for me, it was ultimately empty.
But Fay loved it!
As a final note is it just me or does it seem this tournament’s going out of it’s way to advance Marriage Plot, maybe even let it, heaven forbid, win? I mean first it’s placed against something it will obviously crushed. Ok, it happens! (See Sense of an Ending vs. The Devil All the Time). But then things that could defeat it are placed against each other (Art of Fielding, Open City), then there are two surprise losses (Sense of an Ending, Tiger’s Wife) leading to a next round match up of Marriage Plot with Open City. Now I know I just said Open City could win. But it’s polarising. Vivienne and I loved it, Margaret, one of the managers, hated it. Whereas Art of Fielding is a damn enjoyable novel, and yes, there’s not much more to it but I feel the same way about Marriage Plot (minus the enjoyable part). In other ways too I feel like Art of Fielding was the closest book to it in the Tournament (having not read Green Girl), and Art of Fielding was a LOT more enjoyable. ANYWAY, clearly I’m hoping for an Open City win.
And that, as they say, is the books.
Check back in tomorrow for Vivienne’s internet debut!