November 18, 2013: “Find the Bad Guy” by Jeffrey Eugenides
There’s not a lot to learn from the Q&A with Jeffrey Eugenides, but there it is anyway.
Charlie D. is a fake. He’s from Michigan, but he’s put on a Texas drawl to fit in, complete with down-home expressions. He’s married to a tall German woman, and they’re in counseling, after he confessed to sleeping with the babysitter. In terms of plot, that’s about it. Charlie’s voice is fun, and some of the details are great: he is interested in the smell of houses; he plays Words with Friends with his daughter; his marriage to his wife was, initially, a sham to get her a green card, but they fell in love; she’s very tall and successful at work (she works at Hyundai, although they drive a Nissan); and so on.
But the bulk of the story is the two of them playing “Find the Bad Guy” in counseling and Charlie moping outside the house.
It’s pleasant enough.
Pleasant enough is a good description, but still disappointing considering how great a novel Middlesex is. I was expecting something special from Eugenides and this story wasn’t it.
is rather deplorable character, but I really liked the story. I can see how this story could turn off readers though; its narrator lacks authenticity. The strength lies in its content. Playing a Scrabble-ish app with a teen daughter is a very common modern relationship between a father and teen girl. Buying a house because of its firepit is bizarre yet believable. Marrying a non-citizen solely for citizenship is cliche, but it speaks to the sanctity of marriage. Charlie has resolved much of his life’s stresses with booze, as do many Americans. It’s simply easier for them to drink and forget than to face the issue at hand. The story is honest and (unfortunately) exemplifies the mainstream 21st century family.