Sunday, March 15, 2015

Completed: The Virgins


I read this book so fast I didn't even have time to write a preview post. Which is probably fine, because I only have the vaguest memories of why I bought this book. I'm pretty sure probably read this good review of it, and I'm even more sure it "felt" like it might be a ToB candidate. Alas.

The truth is, I read this one yesterday in a sort of mid-March panic. I mean, the reading part wasn't panicked. That was a fantastic feeling. After a solid 10 days of work deadlines of one kind or another, it was awesome to just lay (lie?) in bed with a book. I even cheated and took a nap. It was fantastic.

The panic part was about book selection----I was thinking I'd try and squeeze in another ToB book, but the ones that are left are pretty big. I guess I'm going to try and tackle The Bone Clocks next, but I'm ambivalent about it. Even though people I respect in the commentariat are telling me to read it, I still feel David Mitchelled out. Maybe I'll take in on vacation with me next week.

Then, I realized that our next "common" read is April, and I didn't want to get behind here. So I looked over my list (do you ever look over the list and wonder what the hell you were thinking? Hah!) and decided this would be a good one to read.

The Virgins is a prep school story, one set in the 1979-1980 school year at a boarding school in New Hampshire. The narrator, Bruce Bennett-Jones is telling the year long saga of the couple Aviva (a Jewish girl from the Chicago suburbs) and Seung (a Korean American boy from Jersey).

It's clear the author was going for a sort of Gatsby-esque vibe, only creepier. And although mid-novel, I'm not sure it worked, I think there is something sort of illuminating about it. After all, when you think about it, Nick Carraway is kind of a creeper. But Gatsby's saga is so, I don't know, breathtaking that Nick fades into the background. But the more you think about Nick, the more you wonder what he was doing watching over Gatsby and Daisy so carefully. He claims he was swept into it by Gatsby himself, but was he?

In this novel, there's no wondering. Bruce is obsessed with Aviva, and his creation of their story is clearly just that...created. He openly admits to creating the relationship out of bits and pieces of information along with whatever story he is telling himself to make his own behavior more acceptable. And trust me, there's plenty of bad behavior on his part. Bruce is a yucky little person, and I didn't enjoy his point of view. For that alone, I have to give the author credit. I disliked the narrator, but was curious about to read more about his creation of Aviva and Seung.

The novel starts in the fall and follows the couple through the school year and into the tragic events of spring, with the death of Seung. (This is given away by the fact that the narrator reveals it pretty early in the book, and also by the fact that his voice is pronounced "sang." Here's a new working theory I have for books: If the author makes the point of having their name be pronounced as the past tense of a common verb, you know they're toast. Anyhoo.) There was, more than anything else in this book, a lot of angsty teenage romantic fumbling. I would not recommend you listen to the aBook. Lol.

This was not a book I loved or hated. Meh. I promise to come back in a few months if it turns out I think about it all the time.



  1. Oh, yeah -- I absolutely look at my TBR list and think "what was I thinking?" (Roald Dahl Omnibus, I am looking directly at you.) *However* I also find that, when I read the book, I'm usually all, "Oh *that's* why it was on my bookshelf -- I really *did* want to read this book!" (The only times I have not felt that way at all have been straight-up "recommendations". If it's a book I have picked up myself, I am usually happy with it. But if it's 100% someone else's book? Those are, I hate to admit it, most of my duds.) (I gotta go back and see if this is really true. I am thinking of Little, Big and Cry, the Beloved Country as I write this and cannot immediately think of a book that I have picked up on my own that I have not liked... but there must have been some, right? Hrm... will investigate later.)

    Anyhooo... random thoughts:

    Do you have another example to support your "name sounds like the past tense = surely dead" theory? Or are you just starting it with this book?

    If 2015 is the year of "judging a book by its cover," this book totally supports that. Cause... I saw this cover in your post and thought "Ew. Creepy." And based on your description, that is totally true!

    I have also finished my (intentionally selected for its brevity!) March selection, so I will be posting shortly. Now we need to discuss how we are going to to collaboratively read/discuss/post about On Beauty -- there are three separate sections, so we could do it again Sandman-style. Did that work for you?

  2. No, this new theory is just starting with this book. I'll have to keep my eye out for other examples. Lol. Mostly I was just being a smart ass.

    Sure, the doing it by thirds with us writing back and forth works well. I can start this time since it was my choice? Didn't you start first with Sandman?

    Speaking of Sandman? Did you ever finish? Where are you? I'm in the middle somewhere, reading them digitally, so less tied to the books now. But...looking on wikipedia, somewhere in A Game of You. Definitely will revisit those.

    1. I just realized I never replied to this. I have started On Beauty -- go ahead and start the post whenever you want. If we divide the month into thirds, we should complete Section 1 by the 10th, Section 2 by the 20th and Section 3 by the 30th. That work for ya?

      Re: Sandman...I stalled out at Book 6. I plan to finish them, but I needed a break. Once we discussed all of the naked women, I could not ignore them (as I usually do with comics.) Too many.

  3. Okay, I'll start On Beauty now that I'm back home. I forgot to take it with me this week! But the 10th should be fine.

    I have started reading The Sandman again. So, you know, a break is good. Also, being stuck on vacation with them all on your iPad is good...because I just started right up again. I have no idea where I am, though. It's complicated!