Jeffrey Eugenides, "Extreme Solitude"
Jeffrey Eugenides’s “ Extreme Solitude ” (TNY, June 7, 2010) deserves a chance, and it’ll reward it luxuriantly. I say this because the first sentence is terrible: “It was debatable whether or not Madeleine had fallen in love with Leonard the first moment she’d seen him.” That first adjective seems to have been picked by Eugenides’s secret enemy. And the “whether or not” construction is bland and superfluous. I hated it. But get over the sour taste and you’ll find a savory piece that’s told fantastically well. The story is about, yes, how Leonard and Madeleine met and—maybe—fell in love. Their romance takes place during the eighties and is mediated by Semiotics 211, a course they take at Brown and in which they are pariahs because everyone else dresses in black and compulsively questions things like the significance of his own name. They meet in Semiotics 211, they have sex frequently during the semester, and, at the end, there is a declaration of love and subsequent dashing of hopes