Impossible as it may be to believe, Jeffrey Eugenides had so little faith in his ability to get The Virgin Suicides published that he filled it with the names of people he knew. “I was a virtually unpublished writer just playing around,” he says on the phone from Berlin, where he is spending the summer with his wife, the photographer and sculptor Karen Yamauchi and their 10-year-old daughter. “I had no ostensible hopes for it. My writing was a private exercise to please myself.”
Still, he had studied with the likes of Rick Moody, who was beginning to get published, and while Eugenides maintained himself by working as an executive secretary at the Academy of American Poets in New York, he wrote for two hours a night, four hours on the weekend and at every chance he could get during the workday. He was eventually fired for writing on the job, so he submitted the first chapter of his “private exercise” to The Paris Review as a short story. That was almost two decades ago. Today, the novel that resulted from that short story has been republished in paperback and holds its place as a modern American classic.
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