Tag Archives: the marriage plot

The DFW Character in The Marriage Plot

An interesting post over at Slate puts some context on the supposed David Foster Wallace character in Jeffrey Eugenides’ new novel, The Marriage Plot. Eugenides says it’s unintentional:

It just got started by New York Magazine’s online Vulture site and they stated it not as a question but as a fact and it seemed to flow from that. I’m waiting for it to pass by. Now people are saying there are so many differences between [Leonard and David Foster Wallace], the basic one being that Wallace didn’t even have manic depression. I think they’re reading too much into the bandanna. I was thinking Guns N’ Roses and heavy metal guys but what can you do.

Slate’s David Haglund says that’s bullshit:

Whatever his reasons, though, Eugenides is not fooling anyone. Or shouldn’t be: Leonard clearly, undoubtedly has something to do with Wallace. In addition to all the similarities noted by Paskin (she goes well beyond the bandanna and the chewing tobacco—though, as she writes, “bandanna and chew are not common accoutrements”), Eugenides also takes words that Wallace actually said (in a 1996 profile by Frank Bruni) and puts them in the mouth of Leonard. How something like that could happen unconsciously I can’t fathom.

The rest of the post has some thoughts on why Eugenides might be doing such a thing, along with some references to Franzen and his recent book.

“David Foster Wallace” Character in Jeffrey Eugenides’ New Novel

Yeah, I have no idea what to make of this. The book is The Marriage Plot, out in October. I hope that means they still have time to completely change the cover.

Leonard Bankhead is a philosophy double major who chews tobacco, wears a bandanna, disdains ironic detachment, and has a history of mental illness that has led to multiple hospitalizations — just like David Foster Wallace. (Also, like Infinite Jest’s Hal Incandenza, Bankhead self-medicates through out high school with marijuana.) Certainly, Leonard is distinct from DFW in a number of ways as well — the particularities of his family situation, his being a total stud, that he’s a manic-depressive, not just a depressive, that he’s not a writer, and all the vagaries of the plot — but the similarities are so iconically David Foster Wallace (a bandanna and chew are not common accoutrements) that Eugenides, who did not have a well-known or documented friendship with Foster Wallace, must intentionally be calling him to mind.

Here’s how Bankhead is introduced, in a semiotics class he’s taking with Madeleine. Like Foster Wallace, he’s a double major in philosophy and a hard science (in Foster Wallace’s case it was philosophy and math English, though he wrote a book about math) and he dips chew. You can find this in one of the New Yorker excerpts.

“He said in a quiet voice that he was a double major (biology and philosophy) and had never taken a semiotics course before, that his parents had named him Leonard…. After he finished his coffee, he dug into his right snowmobile boot and, to Madeleine’s surprise, pulled out a tin of chewing tobacco. With two stained fingers, he placed a wad of tobacco in his cheek. For the next two hours, every minute or so, he spat, discreetly but audibly, into the cup.

Leonard is also interested in subjects that interested Foster Wallace. . . .

Oh, and is The Recognitions seriously, “falling out of the canon faster than John Dos Passos”? Kinda thought Gaddis was experiencing a little bit of respect finally, though, National Book Awards notwithstanding, I don’t think he was ever particularly “canonical.”

THE SURRENDER

The Surrender is Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning his lifelong desire to be a woman.


LADY CHATTERLEY'S BROTHER

Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


THE LATIN AMERICAN MIXTAPE

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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