Culture

The Best Marriage Plot Ever Written? Jeffrey Eugenides Makes a Case for 'The Portrait of a Lady'

Jeffrey Eugenides/Photo: <a href=CC/Rodrigo Fernandez/Wikipedia" />
Jeffrey Eugenides/Photo: CC/Rodrigo Fernandez/Wikipedia

Jeffrey Eugenides thinks that the best marriage plot ever written belongs to Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady -- not for romantic reasons, but because "the question isn’t who will she marry but how will she survive her marriage." Jeffrey, you might have missed your true calling as a wedding officiant.

Big-time movie star John Cusack proved this week that he's got a sense of humor about his humble beginnings as an '80s heartthrob, appearing live at a Peter Gabriel concert with that oh-so-familiar boom box as a special intro to "In Your Eyes," a special nod to the iconic (and often parodied) scene in "Say Anything." He didn't stick around to actually hold the stereo overhead, but it's okay. In an age of lightweight mp3 players, that kind of gesture just seems unnecessarily athletic.

Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian used to be a much different novel. Now we can pick through excerpts from earlier drafts and admire the roots of McCarthy's pet project, which the article referenced presents as "a Southerner's first crack at a Western." While many passages were written on the first try, most of the book's evolution was painfully slow, and many interesting characters were chopped out before readers got the chance to meet them.

One of my favorite interview features is the AV Club's "Random Roles," in which they corner a Hollywood veteran and then wring as many memories as possible out of him/her. This week's victim is Jean Marsh, who you'll remember most vividly as the evil queen Bavmorda in"Willow," and the witch Mombie in "Return to Oz." Nowadays she's just a sweet old lady who would never hurt a fly, runaway Kansan, or Daikini infant.

Live a Life Well-Read Get the best of news, culture, and books delivered weekly. Join the Signature newsletter