In 1996, Granta published the “Best of Young American Novelists” issue, and this list has been famous ever since. The Twenty under Forty have had varying degrees of success, and everyone thinks that someone was left off, and none of that matters because it was, after all, a silly gimmick to sell magazines. Which it did. Jeffrey Eugenides was on the list, as I was recently reminded when I opened his excellent new novel Middlesex[1] and found myself reading words I had first read in 1996. His excerpt in Granta was from a novel in progress finally published this September. We’ve been waiting a long time.

Eugenides’s first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was slim, weird, and beautiful. He wrote it while he worked at the Academy of American Poets, and I like to think that one can tell it was written in the company of poets. Recalling scenes from...


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