‘m not quite sure how to say this…this was just about the most beautiful book I’ve read in a coon’s age. And I know! It’s about five girls who are (maybe) so smothered and oppressed by their overbearing parents that they seppuku. Teen suicides = totally dismal, no? And yes, BUT! The whole thing is just so creepy-lovely that I can hardly stand it!
The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides
We’re told straight out the gate (in the first sentence, even) that all five Lisbon girls do the Dutch, so there’s no real mystery here, unless it’s the why, and that *spoiler* never gets solved. The tale is narrated by the boys, those scrubby neighborhood ankle-biters who spent their childhoods and teenaged years obsessed with the ever more reclusive girls. We get to hear their thoughts (of the Lisbons’ jasmine soap), dreams (of getting inside the girls’ rooms) and fears (of watching the girls fade from sight). But we never hear from the girls themselves!! So we’re only speculating that it was the overbearing parents. Or low seratonin levels.
In my mind, I see Eugenides sitting down to IM his editor, all Dude! I’ve written the most morbid book! I call it…The Lisbon Girls.
Editor103: Sounds dry. What’s it about?
JeffEugtheGreat: Five teenage girls who lie down in the Couch of the Long Sleep. It’s AWEsome.
Editor103: …They commit suicide? All five of them? Dude, that is effed.
JeffEugtheGreat: No, dude, seriously. It’s killer. The book is like this gorgeous flower, right? All beautifully-written and shit, but then you get closer and you see that the flower is swarming with aphids, except that I ruined the aphids bit by talking about the suicides straight off. So ok, it’s like this flower that you know is swarming with aphids, right? But you can’t take your eyes off it because it’s so beautiful, even though it’s all dying and shit.
JeffEugtheGreat: I know!
Editor103: K, but we’ve got to call it something else. The Lisbon Girls sounds like a BBC soap. It isn’t going to sell.
JeffEugtheGreat: But dude! It’s ART!
Editor103: Yes, but we need people to pick up the piece of art and pay the $18.99 for it. We need the word ‘suicide’ in the title. Nothing sells like suicides.
JeffEugtheGreat: Except sex. Sex sells. The Sexy Suicides.
Editor103: You are an idiot. These are teenage girls. How old is the youngest?
Editor103: That’s not sexy. The Virgin Suicides! Dude, everyone loves a virgin.
JeffEugtheGreat: Yeah, but one of them is a total whore!
Editor103: Yes, but she’s a virgin in her mind. It’s metaphoric!
JeffEugtheGreat: Dude, that is brilliant.
Editor103: This is why you pay me.
And I’d bet good money that Eugenides is a sight more eloquent than that, but what do I know, right? We can pretend. Alls I know is that I am totally in love with this book, and kind of unsettled by that.