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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

21st Century Couples

One of my first thoughts after finishing "Fates And Furies" (2015) and seeing the young face of Lauren Groff on the book sleeve was that this audacious author will be producing great literature after "...the cold meat..." of me is in the grave.  This is not morbid; it's the residual effect of being floored by someone so young who is this assured.

The deeper I processed Groff's ambition - embodied by this remarkable, profane and thoroughly modern novel - the more another "young" novelist came to mind - the late John Updike. Updike's early work was not universally adored but his impact on the world of 20th century literature is undeniable. And his ability to dissect the shifting landscape of American marriage sharpened over the course of his half-century career. I can easily envision Lauren Groff's work following a similar fifty year trajectory. "Fates And Furies" is the 21st century equivalent of Updike's "Couples" - raw, shocking, unsparing. I'm confident saying you will have trouble forgetting the marriage of Lancelot Satterwite and Mathilde Yoder or making up your mind until the final page whether Mathilde is someone you'd want as a friend.

"A speck on the slender child grows into a gross deformity in the adult, inescapable, ragged at the edges."

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