My Life in Movies and Books: The Virgin Suicides

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1. Leather Bound Journal; 2. Floral Dress; 3. Pink Princess Phone; 4. Smith’s Rosebud Salve; 5. Prom Tiara; 6. Crosley Cruiser Turntable; 7. Saddle Shoes; 8. Virginia Slims (don’t smoke, it’s stupid); 9. Floral Crown.

My favorite book of most time is The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I only say most time because my books are like by children – I would be an OC Housewife to choose between them. The story is told by a “collective we” in which an unspecified number of neighbor boys obsess over a very protected group of sisters (the Lisbon girls), whom of which, one by one, commit suicide. Eugenides provides a raw yet controlled depiction of young suicidal teen girls of which the voyeuristic neighbor boys have become infatuated with. The book does not only provide a good example of how teens deal with the horrific circumstances that growing up in an overprotected environment presents, but the voyeurism that the “we” narrative, (the obsessive young men who tell the story), provide.

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The way the novel is constructed is that of a “patchwork picture,” meaning that, not one single boy is the teller/observer of each happenstance in the novel, but rather the observations are made by multiple boys to construct each moment in the plot with the pronoun “we.” There is a deep, underlying obsession that these guys experience which drive them to find out every single detail of what may have made all five of the Lisbon girls kill themselves. These guys go so far as to have their friends sneak into the Lisbon house, look at the girl’s personal items, toothbrushes, underwear, observe their eating habits, sex lives, etc. The young boys eventually obtain Cecilia Lisbon’s diary, the youngest sister who commits suicide first, which they read to emotionally connect with the sisters:

We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them (Eugenides).

This idea of “twin-ness,” and doubling is a very intimate connection that may or may not be legitimate, more of a fantasy, but the fact is that these young men are so invested in these girls’ lives that they believe they are their other halves in a sense. This lovely fabricated relationship that Eugenides has constructed between the boys and the Lisbon girls is nearly perfect voyeurism. Because these two groups (boys and sisters) never really talk, apart from morse code and a brief encounter before the mass suicides, it is obvious that the love/fascination/connection is all one sided. This novel is really voyeurism at its greatest! The desperation and appetite that is portrayed in this novel by the young boys is both raw and visceral.

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The movie is beautiful, but imperfect. To say the novel is better really isn’t fair. I dislike that way of thinking. Novels are novels books are books. Novels inspire film similar to the way faces inspire portraits. Qualifying their worth against each other doesn’t resinate well with me. Enough philosophy. Sophia Coppola makes the most stimulatingly aesthetic movies I have ever seen IN MY LYFE. Let’s not even talk about Marie Antoinette right now… let’s just not. I don’t know if I can really gush about the screenplay, not that I don’t think its good, I am just distracted by her images. I think of a sullen, house ridden set of grounded sisters, then Coppola shows you the stair case with a half eaten sandwich, the blankets, forts, musty nightgowns, the slumber party that never ends, depression, desperation. An empty house with 4 dead teens. Beautiful teens, gone. Raw, perfect life, ended. It will depress the crap out of you, but it will inspire you to understand sadness in a way you didn’t think you could. The suicidal prom queen, the lonely virgin. Read and watch this piece will change you.

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