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Just Kids

Generational Divide: Comparing the works of Eugenides's generation.

“He didn’t like it because it was pleasurable,” Eugenides told me, adding that Franzen slipped away from the weeklong party for a while to go bird-watching. Meanwhile, Eugenides got to know Wallace, with whom he’d had a ­rapid-fire correspondence about religion after the publication of Infinite Jest. Like Eugenides, whose search for faith is a major element of The Marriage Plot, Wallace quietly sought out spiritual answers and flirted with joining the Catholic Church, as Karr later did. (When they were together, they tried to pray every day.) He told Eugenides those letters held a lot of meaning for him.

Wallace had a good time in Capri, much to Franzen’s surprise, at one point getting the crowd laughing with a riff about being “reduced really to the status of a baby” by trying to communicate without knowing any Italian. And later in the trip, Wallace went to Wimbledon for his essay on Roger Federer, which dropped sportswriting jaws everywhere. He seemed almost like a new man. Eugenides found Wallace more shy than expected but still lively and funny. They got along, as did their wives. “It seemed like the beginning of a friendship,” Eugenides says. He never saw Wallace again.