Critically-acclaimed novelist Jeffrey Eugenides became a literary star with the publication of his debut novel The Virgin Suicides in 1993. Having written only three books over the course of eighteen years ... Read more »
Critically-acclaimed novelist Jeffrey Eugenides became a literary star with the publication of his debut novel The Virgin Suicides in 1993. Having written only three books over the course of eighteen years, The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex and The Marriage Plot, the American author found success with each of his novels and attracted a devoted audience of critics and readers who anxiously awaited each of his works. All of Eugenides's novels tackled the transition from youth to adulthood, each drawing upon the author's own experiences to bring a sense of realism and emotional depth.
Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 8, 1960. His Greek grandparents, who emigrated from Asia Minor and settled in Detroit, became an inspirational source for his novel, Middlesex. With their three boys, Eugenides's parents eventually moved to the wealthy Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, which would later becoming the setting for both The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex. Eugenides displayed a passion for literature at an early age, studying Latin in prep school and devouring the classics throughout his school years. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University in 1982. Upon finishing school, Eugenides drove out to San Francisco to pursue a writing career but ended up in journalism instead. He briefly edited for a yachting magazine before heading back to school to receive his Master's in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University in 1986. Despite his academic pursuits, he was unsatisfied with his dearth of published works and moved to New York in 1988, working as a secretary at the Academy of American Poets. Already 30, with little published credentials under his belt and working a 9 to 5 job, Eugenides started working on his novel The Virgin Suicides. The story caught the eye of the founder of The Paris Review, George Plimpton, who published the first chapter of the novel, which led to Eugenides gaining a literary agent, completing the book and selling it to the first publisher who read it.
Eugenides' tragic suburban fable of five sisters who commit suicide remained one of his most potent works. After its 1993 publication, both Granta and The New Yorker championed Eugenides as one of America's best young novelists. Shortly after, he attended an artists' retreat in New Hampshire and met his future wife, a sculptor. Even with the critical success of his debut effort, it would take the author almost nine years to publish his sophomore novel. After being offered a grant from the German Academic Exchange Programme, Eugenides took his wife, his 8-month old daughter and his unfinished manuscript of Middlesex with him and moved to Berlin in 1999. The move provided financial stability and a temporary respite from the pressures of completing a follow-up novel. He would stay there for the next five years, working on Middlesex until its release in 2002. Drawing upon his Greek-American heritage, the novel's unlikely antagonist was a hermaphrodite, who traces his and her history from his/her ancestors in Asia Minor through a heartbreaking and hilarious coming-of-age in Detroit and than San Francisco - mirroring Eugenides' very own migration cross-country. A mix of ancient Greek mythology and contemporary American archetypes, the novel struck a chord with audiences, winning the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. After being chosen for Oprah's Book Club, the author achieved international fame and the novel exploded in popularity. In between his second and third novel, Eugenides moved his family to Princeton, New Jersey in 2007, where he joined the faculty of Princeton University's Program in Creative Writing.
While Middlesex loosely adapted his childhood and adolescence in Detroit, his third novel looked back to his time spent at Brown in the eighties. With a knack for female narrators, Eugenides explored the story of a female student who's pulled into a love triangle and the intertwining fates of her two suitors. Reinterpreting the genre of courtship and marriage canonized by Jane Austen, Eugenides modernized the search for a mate within an intellectual setting mingled with the problems of today in his third novel, The Marriage Plot (2011). The book immediately shot to the bestseller lists and reaffirmed Eugenides' talents as a writer of new literary classics. The book also caught the attention of Hollywood and was slated for a film adaptation by "Adventureland" (2009) director Greg Mottola in 2015. It wasn't the first time Eugenides' writings had been mined for the screen. His short story, "Baster," originally published in 1996 in The New Yorker, served as the basis for the romantic comedy "The Switch" (2010) starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. Eugenides continued to teach at Princeton, while his writings appeared frequently in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and other esteemed publications.