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Jeffrey Eugenides talks about 'The Marriage Plot' and pokes fun at literary theorists

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Why do you write so much about death and suicide?

I think the suicides in my first book came from the idea of growing up in Detroit. If you grow up in a city like that, you feel everything is perishing, evanescent, and going away very quickly. The suicides of those girls in that book represented the dying of my hometown. I almost wasn’t writing about suicides as such, but the brevity of life, or the impermanence of all things. With this book, it’s more that I was interested in mental illness and insanity than suicide.

Do you see Detroit as a microcosm of America, an empire that is perishing?

I see Detroit as emblematic of a large swath of the United States, not the entire country. The cities that were once powerful and are now greatly reduced – Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, St Louis, Cincinnati. They are all in dire straits. I think Detroit is a microcosm, or a reflection of a lot of American culture, from
Motown all the way to Eminem. It seems like a really interesting city in that way.

Would you say the group of writers that you were mixing with in the '90s (Jonathan Franzen, David Means, and David Foster Wallace) influenced a
culture of writing that was happening at the time?

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