“Asleep in the Lord” is taken from your forthcoming novel, “The Marriage Plot,” which follows the entwined lives of its three main characters—Mitchell; the woman he loves, Madeleine; and the man she loves, Leonard—after they meet at university. How long have you been working on the novel? What’s it been like to be spend so much time back in the early eighties in the company of characters who are only just entering their adult lives?
I think I worked on this book about five or six years. After finishing “Middlesex,” I began another novel, which I had to abandon after a couple of years of work. Part of that novel grew into “The Marriage Plot,” however. So it wasn’t a total disaster, just the usual semi-catastrophe. Though the characters in the book are young, just getting out of college during the recession of the early eighties, they are thinking adults, passionate about each other and the books they’re reading. Writing the book meant inhabiting the consciousnesses of my three main figures, and I found this a pleasant place to be, most days. Doesn’t everyone want to be in college again?
To me, college doesn’t seem that long ago, anyway. It wasn’t hard to remember the music we listened to or the films we watched, or the way I felt back then. Much of the novel is written from the point of view of a young woman graduating from college. So, as with any book, it was more of a labor of imagination than recollection. And that was where the real pleasure came.
No cells phones to deal with, either. No personal computers. I didn’t mind that at all. I remember those days well, what my daughter calls “dinosaur times.”