Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A to Z Challenge: The Virgin Suicides

I read the book and watched the movie of this some time ago, back in the 2000s.  The book is from Michigan native Jeffrey Eugenides, who won the Pulitzer for his follow-up Middlesex, which to my knowledge doesn't have a movie yet.  The movie was from the late 1990s and is the debut feature of Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis Ford) who was nominated for an Oscar for her follow-up Lost in Translation.  So everyone went on to better things.  Not to say this isn't bad.  It's actually quite good.

Both media revolve around a suburban Detroit neighborhood and a family of teenage girls everyone obsesses over.  Then bad things start happening to them.  There's one particularly rebellious one, who in the movie was played by Kirsten Dunst, who went on to better things in the Spider-Man movies.

The book features odd narration in that it's narrated by a group of boys who live in the neighborhood.  They're never identified; they're only given as "We."  So if you find that too weird it'd probably be better to watch the movie.

Here's my book review, which indicates I didn't like the book all that much; I gave it 3/5 stars.

This is the first time I've ever encountered the sort of narration used in "The Virgin Suicides." Instead of one central narrator, it is a collective of the local boys told through "we" instead of "I" or "he", which takes a little getting used to for this reader. At first I found this unique and interesting, but by the end I thought this device kept me from really experiencing the story on a personal level. Everything became so detached it was as if reading a newspaper account.

It didn't help that the Lisbon girls all seemed like clones except for Lux and Cecelia. The other three--Mary, Bonnie, and Therese--are so little-used it's hard to remember anything specific about them. Lux is certainly the best-drawn of the five girls, as her adventures on the rooftop and so forth are well-documented, but even she remains impersonal.

The boy narrators themselves are even more vague and impersonal. We know very little about any of them, except names and scant bits of information. I suppose it's ironic in a novel about how unknowable the Lisbons are that the reader knows even less about the boys telling the story, except that they loved the Lisbons.

By the end, like reading an obituary in a newspaper, I feel badly for the Lisbons, but it's that momentary, vague blip of sadness before flipping to the sports page.

I undertand that's the point of the novel. No one understands the Lisbons as much as they try. It makes for an interesting literary exercise; however, it doesn't really make for an entertaining book.

1 comment:

  1. The title probably caught people's attention. Virgins? Suicide? What's going on?

    "We" is still first person, and I doubt I could tolerate a book in the view point of a group, rather than one person at a time.

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