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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


How We Assembled Indiespensable #30

Jeffrey Eugenides hit the ground running with his first novel in 1993. Not only did The Virgin Suicides receive rave reviews and go on to be made into a critically acclaimed movie by Sofia Coppola, it also possessed that rare, intangible quality that garners certain particularly visceral novels an enduring cult following. Nine years later, his second book, Middlesex, achieved more traditional markers of success. It received the Pulitzer Prize and was selected by Oprah for her book club, virtually guaranteeing it would become a bestseller (which it did) — and it continues to be a Powell's favorite among staff and customers.

Obviously, Eugenides' next book would have a lot to live up to. And we're here to say, it succeeded. As Publishers Weekly put it, "[The Marriage Plot] so impressively, ambitiously breaks the mold of its predecessor that it calls for the founding of a new prize to recognize its success both as a novel — and as a Jeffrey Eugenides novel."

Very different in scope and scale than Middlesex, The Marriage Plot centers on the lives of three students in their last years of college. It's the early 1980s, and Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell are searching for meaning in literature, the world at large, and each other. This marvelous novel is a study in paradox. Both a love-triangle and a coming-of-age story, it's filled with characters who are at once utterly recognizable and wonderfully new. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews praised: "Dazzling work — Eugenides continues to show that he is one of the finest of contemporary novelists." We absolutely agree.

Our inclusion of Silas Marner was greatly inspired by Eugenides' protagonist Madeleine. Madeleine is many things. But at heart she's a student of literature; the "marriage plot" of the title refers to her work on the role of marriage in 19th-century novels, and she has a special fondness for those of Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Henry James. In homage to Madeleine's tastes (and, to be honest, we love those authors, too), we've included a copy of the Penguin Classics Edition of one of George Eliot's greatest works. Not only is this edition particularly beautiful, it contributes to a good cause: Penguin will donate half the profits from the sale of this book to the Global Fund to help eliminate AIDS in Africa. Whether this gives you the opportunity to revisit the beloved classic or discover the story for the first time, we hope you enjoy this addition.

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A collective of high muckamucks, the Panjandrums largely spend their time in competitive Bananagram duels and negotiations regarding Pie Friday — not to mention painstakingly designing each installment of Powell's subscription club, Indiespensable, with the help of independent publishers and local merchants. From time to time, they find it entertaining to give you a look at the hows and whys behind the what. But, if you're yearning for more, send questions, suggestions, and random anecdotes to (They especially like stories about pets, babies, and pie fillings.)

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Marriage Plot
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  2. Silas Marner: Red Edition Used Trade Paper $2.95
  3. Middlesex
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  4. The Virgin Suicides
    Used Trade Paper $7.95

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