The Virgin Suicides book cover This year marks the 16th anniversary of the publication of The Virgin Suicides (which I did not like nearly as much as Middlesex, but whatever).  Jeffrey Eugenides talks to Nadine Rubin about this milestone at The Daily Beast, and their conversation yields a lot of interesting information for writers, particularly the stuff about his early career, or when he didn’t yet have a career:

…while Eugenides maintained himself by working as an executive secretary at the Academy of American Poets in New York, he wrote for two hours a night, four hours on the weekend and at every chance he could get during the workday. He was eventually fired for writing on the job, so he submitted the first chapter of his “private exercise” to The Paris Review as a short story. That was almost two decades ago. Today, the novel that resulted from that short story has been republished in paperback and holds its place as a modern American classic.|

Former Paris Review editor James Scott Linville remembers receiving chapter one of what would become The Virgin Suicides. He had seen Eugenides’ writing before. About six years earlier, Eugenides had sent in a short story called “Capricious Gardens.” An intern had fished it out of the slush pile and handed it to Linville. “It was terrific, but it wasn’t right for us,” remembers Linville. “So I wrote Jeff a letter and told him to send it to the Gettysburg Review.” In the succeeding years, Eugenides sent Linville “about a dozen stories,” but none were published. But this new story was completely different from anything he’d written before. “It had this very unusual choral voice and was quietly insinuating,” recalls Linville. “It was a story about how men can feel left out of women’s lives in some ways, that there is something unknowable about women, something men first notice as teenagers.” Linville took the story to his then-editor-in-chief, the late George Plimpton and, as if a magic wand had been waved, Eugenides was published in The Paris Review and introduced to Lynn Nesbit, one of New York’s most powerful literary agents. Soon after, he signed his first book deal.

Advertisements