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It may be best to discuss the book in a separate thread, or better to discuss it after I'm finished with it, but I couldn't resist looking at A&F for related posts. I'm glad to see someone here gave the book a try.

I've read (and liked) all of Eugenides's other novels, so I'll probably give this one a spin once I can find it for cheap at a used book store (that's pretty much how I do all of my buying these days). I could be really off with this, but while I don't think he's a believer, I think he came from a pretty strong Greek Christian background.

That's interesting. The Christian character in the book, Mitchell, is Greek Orthodox.

EDIT: And, of course, I Googled for that information and came across this interview with the author, which states:

Was the character of Mitchell in “The Marriage Plot” based on a younger Jeffrey Eugenides?

The one part of Mitchell’s story that comes close to my life is that I did take a lot of religious studies courses in college and got very interested in religion. I thought about converting to Catholicism, even though I was brought up as a Greek Orthodox. I thought I wanted to become a scholar of religion, but I chose not to do that, and to pursue writing. In a very grandiose, self-dramatising way I thought of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, rejecting the priesthood and becoming a writer in the same way. That’s the level to which Joyce influenced me. It’s amazing because it changed certain decisions in my life.

Edited by Christian

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Started Eugenides' "The Marriage Plot" today.

How'd it go, Andrew? I'm halway through the audiobook (so please, no spoilers), and have gone from deeply appreciative of the writing to caring about some of the characters and marveling at the author's ability to capture certain manifestations of Christian faith. (I'm assuming he's not a believer, but have never looked into the question.)

It may be best to discuss the book in a separate thread, or better to discuss it after I'm finished with it, but I couldn't resist looking at A&F for related posts. I'm glad to see someone here gave the book a try.

Sorry for the late response...

I really enjoyed it. I finished it about two weeks ago now. I'd never read anything by Eugenides, but I think this made me a fan. I definitely appreciated Mitchell's journey, and I wish we'd see more characters like him in American literary fiction. As Eugenides has said in interviews, the topic of religion is almost completely absent from contemporary novels and stories, which is strange considering how important it is to so many people.

Also, I should add this is the first literary novel I've read in quite a while. The last one I read was Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and that nearly killed my soul (you can read my review of that at Books & Culture: http://www.booksandc.../freedom.html). Since then I've been focusing on non-fiction and the Song of Ice and Fire series. But I think The Marriage Plot has revitalized my interest in the literary genre, especially since that's where I'm most comfortable when it comes to fiction writing (I'm just now starting an MA in creative writing at UNT).

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I'm almost done with Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz. I'm absolutely smitten; I have a feeling this will be a lifelong favorite. I also finished Richard Price's Lush Life, and also absolutely loved that.

I first read A Canticle for Leibowitz when I was in high school, and loved it then. I came back to it a few months ago, about forty years down the line, and found it just as moving and powerful. It's an exquisitely written, sorrowful little book; indeed a lifelong favorite.

I'm currently reading some of Charles Dickens' lesser-known works, and I'm slowly plodding through Our Mutual Friend. This one goes on far too long, and the plot holes are maddening, but even lesser Dickens is delightful, and there is some savage satire here. And I'm reminded again that nobody chooses character names better than Charles Dickens. Our Mutual Friend features the shallow social climbers the Veneerings and the nouveau riche musings of Fascination Fledgely.

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Started Eugenides' "The Marriage Plot" today.

How'd it go, Andrew? I'm halway through the audiobook (so please, no spoilers), and have gone from deeply appreciative of the writing to caring about some of the characters and marveling at the author's ability to capture certain manifestations of Christian faith. (I'm assuming he's not a believer, but have never looked into the question.)

It may be best to discuss the book in a separate thread, or better to discuss it after I'm finished with it, but I couldn't resist looking at A&F for related posts. I'm glad to see someone here gave the book a try.

Sorry for the late response...

I really enjoyed it. I finished it about two weeks ago now. I'd never read anything by Eugenides, but I think this made me a fan. I definitely appreciated Mitchell's journey, and I wish we'd see more characters like him in American literary fiction. As Eugenides has said in interviews, the topic of religion is almost completely absent from contemporary novels and stories, which is strange considering how important it is to so many people.

Also, I should add this is the first literary novel I've read in quite a while. The last one I read was Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and that nearly killed my soul (you can read my review of that at Books & Culture: http://www.booksandc.../freedom.html). Since then I've been focusing on non-fiction and the Song of Ice and Fire series. But I think The Marriage Plot has revitalized my interest in the literary genre, especially since that's where I'm most comfortable when it comes to fiction writing (I'm just now starting an MA in creative writing at UNT).

I'm heading for the finish line with The Marriage Plot and hope to be done with it by tomorrow.

As for Freedom, I loved it but had wondered if others, especially Christians, might like it. I just read your review, which I appreciate. It's quite positive, I think. Although you ultimately come down negative on the book, you write:

One undeniable fact about Franzen is that he's a natural at imbuing his characters with life. Yet this adeptness at creating fully realized people makes Freedom hard going for the reader. His thorough examination of Patty, Walter, and Joey exposes us to a side of the human heart that's hard to look at. It's to Franzen's credit that he's able to write so honestly and personally about their secret desires and long-held resentments, but spending five hundred pages around such well-drawn misery is exhausting, no matter how honest the portrayal.

And:

Certainly Franzen's novel is exuberantly written, brimming with life and passion, and its touching conclusion achieves a rare balance between grand emotion and understatement. The problem is that, in seeking to make Freedom truly his own, Franzen dwells so obsessively on difficult truths that weariness and despair overwhelm every positive thing he hoped to say.

I'd say your critique isn't so much with the writing as with the lingering tone -- which might be subjective? Would it surprise you to learn that I DID feel that way about The Corrections, but not at all about Freedom?

Also, as a Christian, I respond to stories about sin and its consequences. I don't mind a little grace, a little light, but the reality is grimmer. When an author recognizes that, even without doing so from a self-consciously Christian perspective, I tend to applaud him or her.

Edited by Christian

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As for Freedom, I loved it but had wondered if others, especially Christians, might like it. I just read your review, which I appreciate. It's quite positive, I think. Although you ultimately come down negative on the book...

I do generally emphasize the negative with Freedom, but to be completely honest, the ending absolutely shattered me, in a good way. I was practically bawling. It's rare to read anything that has that kind of effect on me, and I wanted to join the ranks of everyone praising it. But as I wrote the review, I couldn't get away from the fact that I'd felt so depressed for the other 90% of the book. Is it something I would revisit later in life? I think I would, yes, and maybe it will hit me differently when that day finally comes.

I'd say your critique isn't so much with the writing as with the lingering tone -- which might be subjective? Would it surprise you to learn that I DID feel that way about The Corrections, but not at all about Freedom?

This doesn't surprise me at all. I'm kind of in the minority here, I think. Several reviewers thought Freedom was the lighter of the two, and maybe it is, but that's not how it struck me at the time. I'm not sure why now--it's been too long since I read either of them. That said, I think The Corrections was written in a more self-consciously "difficult" style than Freedom, so I appreciate Franzen's decision to be more reader friendly, without sacrificing character or plot.

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The Magnificent Defeat - Frederick Buechner

One of my favourite titles of a book, it is my extended reading during the days I try (and fail horrendously) to Sabbath. It's my second collection of Buechner sermons after reading The Hungering Dark about a year ago.

G.K. Chesterton: A Biography - Ian Ker

The massive, definitive biography on GKC's life (700+ pages). It will take me well over a year to finish (I am at 41% according to Goodreads.com).

Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life And Imagination Of G.K. Chesterton - Kevin Belmonte

A much smaller biography that sums up the key points of Chesterton's most major works.

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Started Eugenides' "The Marriage Plot" today.

How'd it go, Andrew? I'm halway through the audiobook (so please, no spoilers), and have gone from deeply appreciative of the writing to caring about some of the characters and marveling at the author's ability to capture certain manifestations of Christian faith. (I'm assuming he's not a believer, but have never looked into the question.)

It may be best to discuss the book in a separate thread, or better to discuss it after I'm finished with it, but I couldn't resist looking at A&F for related posts. I'm glad to see someone here gave the book a try.

Sorry for the late response...

I really enjoyed it. I finished it about two weeks ago now. I'd never read anything by Eugenides, but I think this made me a fan. I definitely appreciated Mitchell's journey, and I wish we'd see more characters like him in American literary fiction. As Eugenides has said in interviews, the topic of religion is almost completely absent from contemporary novels and stories, which is strange considering how important it is to so many people.

I finished The Marriage Plot earlier today and felt some disappointment, or at least a rather large come-down from the time I posted earlier about the novel. What's bothering me is the the way Mitchell's experience with the born-again woman seems to have been dropped completely shortly after their encounter (did I miss some obvious references to it later in the novel?), as well as the lack of grappling with any traditional ideas about sexuality from a Christian perspective of fidelity and faithfulness. I wonder if that stuff eludes the author, or it just wouldn't have fit with his story intentions.

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Andrew   

A pair of memoirs:

- Life Itself, by Roger Ebert (a terrific audio version)

- Hitch-22, by Christopher Hitchens

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Coming Apart: The State of White American 1960-2010, by Charles Murray

The Gospel of Food: Everything You Think You Know About Food Is Wrong, by Barry Glassner

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Finally finished up Flannery O'Connor's collection of letters, The Habit of Being. Absolutely loved it. If you are a fan of her fiction or are interested in her life, it's worth picking up.

I'm currently working through Russell Banks's short story collection, The Angel on the Roof. 10 stories in, and haven't liked one yet. I hope that changes.

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Anders   

Just picked up and read the first chapter of DEBT: THE FIRST 5,000 YEARS by David Graeber. Very interesting. It explores the moral, philosophical, legal, and financial notion of debt and how it has structured human society.

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THRILLING CITIES by Ian Fleming.

THRILLING CITIES isn't particularly substantial, but it is an interesting curiosity. It's a series of travel essays that capture something of the state of the world in 1959/1960, with an emphasis on the less-traveled, seedier corners of the mega-cities of the world. Interesting anecdotes abound, and fans of the Bond novels will notice lots of details and names that show up later on in Fleming's work.

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Thanks to Disney's John Carter movie, I started reading the Barsoom novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I've read:

  • A Princess of Mars - the first, and really sets the Barsoom prototype. John Carter is impossibly cool, a hero definitely for the late 19th Century...
  • The Gods of Mars - a bit on the tendentious side, but a fun romp of an atheist's fantasy world
  • The Warlord of Mars - by this book, the pattern of the Barsoom novels is deeply ingrained, and this book mostly just follows the tracks
  • Thuvia, Maid of Mars - some killer ideas! The Wachowski brothers borrowed heavily from this book's ideas when plotting the Morpheus thread of The Matrix's storyline
  • The Chessmen of Mars - super-creepy story about the Kaldanes and the Rykors
  • The Master Mind of Mars - introduces another Earthman who comes to Mars; has some very interesting stuff about the mind/body connection and what true beauty is
  • A Fighting Man of Mars - my favorite of the series so far, with a heroine who finally is more than just a damsel in distress
  • Swords of Mars - enjoyable but well-worn plot
  • Synthetic Men of Mars - I'm in the middle of this one, with stuff that is not so much creepy as grotesque

Still to come:

  • Llana of Gathol
  • John Carter and the Giant Men of Mars
  • Skeleton Men of Jupiter

Edited by CrimsonLine

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Ross Douthat - Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation Of Heretics

Very good so far.

Good to hear. I've got this one coming to me from the library.

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Darren H   

I have such a ridiculous pile of books on my bedside table right now. I just finished Dyer's Zona, which I really enjoyed but which faded almost completely from my memory as soon as I closed it. I'm still picking through the essays in Christian Wiman's collection, Ambition and Survival, along with his poetry collection, every riven thing. After hearing Wiman speak so highly of Seamus Heaney in interviews, I've also checked out collections of his essays and poetry. For my birthday I got the new Marilynne Robinsons collection and that book about introverts, Quiet. I'm reading Andre Bazin's book about Jean Renoir as I work my way through the latter's films. But what I really want to read is the beat-up Patricia Highsmith paperback I bought for $1.99 two months ago. Maybe during the long weekend!

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I'm reading David Foster Wallace's (alas last, unfinished) novel The Pale King, Ursula K. LeGuin's The Earthsea Quartet, Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie, and Gary Thomas' Sacred Marriage. Can you tell which of those might be for a church study group?

I deeply love the Wallace, and I'm enjoying the LeGuin. The marriage book is just capably written, but it contains some good ideas. The Dreiser novel is a classic, and could have been and should have been very good, but it's the free Kindle version and it has some issues. A sample passage:

"It was all wonderful, all mast, all far removed, and she sank in spirit inwardly and fluttered feebly as of the heart as she though of enter any one of these mighty concerns and asking for something to do something that she could do anything."

This is apparently an American book translated into Chinese, and then re-translated back into English. Or something of which I can maybe not be understanding to do with anything.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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Tyler   

Blackout by Connie Willis. It's a sci-fi time-travel thing. Pretty good so far, but I'm still early on in it.

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I'm currently reading James Swanson's Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer; Mel Odom's Golem; and the short story collection, Long Island Noir, which I got to review. All three are good, and I'm pleased that the noir collection is actually quite good.

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