From intersex characters to teenage suicide, Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Eugenides shared his varied sources of inspiration and personal approaches to writing during an exclusive discussion before his lecture in Campbell Hall last night.
Sponsored by Arts & Lectures, Eugenides read selections from his works and lectured to the nearly full house about his diverse range of topics within his writings. He is the best-selling author of The Virgin Suicides, adapted for the screen by Sophia Coppola, and Middlesex, which won him the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003. In addition, Oprah Winfrey named the novel as her summer 2007 pick for her book club.
Throughout his pre-lecture interview, Eugenides spoke on issues ranging from his award-winning novel and the book’s selection by Oprah to his childhood ambition to become a writer.
During the interview, Eugenides talked with the small groups about his goals and methods as a novelist. In particular, Eugenides said that he enjoys juxtaposing provocative ideas with flashes of his own personal autobiography by including past influential teachers or college love interests masked as characters.
During the writing process, Eugenides said appeasing the public is not of chief concern, and he simply focuses on producing what he considers quality work.
“I am not geared for mass consumption, but I am attentive to people’s interests,” Eugenides said. “I don’t set out with any kind of plan for popularity… but I do want my book to be the kind of book I [would] read myself. ”
According to Eugenides, the nine-year wait for the completion of Middlesex had become the butt of jokes in literary circles, and the author said he has become famous for it.
“As a writer, you get this one thing you are known for,” Eugenides said. “Mine is how long it takes [to finish my novels].”
While it may have taken a long period of time to complete his second work, Eugenides said he quickly discovered what profession he sought to pursue at a young age.
“I knew at the age of 15 or 16 [that writing] is what I wanted to do,” Eugenides said. ” I chose it early. I’m never decisive, but I was decisive about that. I didn’t ever give it up.”
Later that night, Eugenides offered some words of advice to aspiring writers.
“Just read as much as you can,” Eugenides said. “That’s what I did and I find that the energy you have to tackle difficult books is greater when you’re 19, 20, 21. Read the major [books], the famous ones. The second thing is try to learn how to be diligent. You have to write every day.”
For complete coverage of last night’s lecture, see Artsweek tomorrow.