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Home News by Category General Updates Marriage Plot Character is Based on Aspects of DFW

Marriage Plot Character is Based on Aspects of DFW

Jeffrey Eugenides spoke to Michael Silverblatt on the most recent radio episode of Bookworm and acknowledged that elements of the Leonard character from The Marriage Plot are based on David Foster Wallace.

The important part of the interview starts around the 23 minute mark.

I've added a quick transcript of it below (apologies for any errors):

Silverblatt: Now, I want to ask because at a certain point I couldn't help it. There's a character who I felt I knew from life who is dipping into a tobacco tin and chewing tobacco and wearing a bandana and dealing with manic depression and I liked this person very much in life. And I know that you, to some extent, were drawing on this person as well. Yes?

Eugenides: In a few places it's been much discussed and for a while I wasn't talking about it because it seemed to give too much weight to it, we're obviously talking about David Foster Wallace, and this book is not a roman à clé. As I said I began it in the late '60s and I didn't know David Wallace very well. I had some correspondence with him in the '90s and then in 2006 when this book was already well advanced I spent a week with him in Italy. When I make up characters I try to draw on every person that I know that has some of the qualities of the character I'm trying to create. So in this case with a manic depressive I put every depressive person that I'd had met or heard about into that character and some of the things that Leonard does have nothing to do with Wallace. The tobacco chewing was actually very rampant at Brown when I first got there. All of my friends chewed tobacco and I had him chewing the tobacco. The thing that comes from him, however, from Wallace, is that he used to keep his Skoal can, I noticed, in his sock when we were in Italy and Leonard's always sticking it down in his boot. So there's a few things that I will admit to, but it was never an idea, I just didn't know him well enough to recreate him.

A most interesting (compared to previous answers), but not really surprising, turn of events. I hope this will stop speculation (for everyone involved, but particularly Eugenides) so that the focus will be The Marriage Plot, and not the Wallace stuff.

[Thanks, Adam]

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 December 2011 00:55  

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