No one writes like Lauren Groff. I first encountered Groff in her second novel, Arcadia, a lush and gripping story of a failing hippie commune. (That book followed her novel debut, The Monsters of Templeton, and a collection of stories, Delicate Edible Birds.) In a piece for Chapter 16, I raved about Arcadia as “a book to be savored at the sentence level, the sounds and smells and foods of its world all brought to life in lush language that evokes both the magical realm of the Grimm tales… as well as the natural world.” How thrilled I would have been then to know I’d one day have the chance to hear Groff read her words live, in her own voice.
Indeed, what first struck me about Lauren Groff’s work was her distinctive voice, one that stands just at remove from the action on the page, like a friendly ghost in the room, more scent than sound. It’s the kind of thing I think writers are always hoping to achieve. When I picked up her third novel, the Obama-fave Fates and Furies, I was held sway once more by voice and equally captivated by the book’s main concerns: marriage and the struggle couples face when art is on the line.
Lately, sinking into the stories of her latest book, Florida, I’ve taken great joy in the way Lauren Groff makes the known world strange again. A neighborhood is “frenzied with renovation,” and the windows of its homes, seen by a woman walking at night, are “domestic aquariums”:
Window after window nears, freezes with its blue fog of television light or its couple hunched over a supper of pizza, holds as I pass, then slides into the forgotten. I think of the way water gathers as it slips down an icicle’s length, pauses to build its glossy drop, becomes too fat to hang on, plummets down.
We also hear of air conditioners “crouched like trolls under the windows, their collective tuneless hum drowning out the night birds and frogs.” That’s the mundane, transformed by a Groffian wand. Creepy, beautiful, all in one. Nature is a place of both refuge and danger in the worlds of Florida. So many snakes in these worlds; so much slithering in the hot damp. I love how Groff shows us the Florida we know is there, but that might not burn as brightly in our imaginations.
Groff’s work, particularly in this latest collection, makes her concern for our world in a time of climate change strikingly clear—her narrators register real fears about the future they and their children stand to inherit. She balances this unflinching gaze with a subtle if biting sense of humor—here and there a gentle nip.
Oh, lucky Nashville: On June 8, Parnassus Books and The Porch will welcome Lauren Groff to our city. She’ll read from her work at LIT UP, a party that promises to bring a sultry, Florida-esque vibe to Corsair Distillery in Wedgewood Houston. Whether you’re a writer or just someone who appreciates reading great writing, this will be a can’t-miss literary evening with awesome drinks and a smashing guest speaker. Join us!
- General admission tickets get you into the party to hang out and hear Groff speak — plus a copy of the brand-new-in-paperback Florida, drinks and light bites, and a fun photo booth and DIY bookmark-printing from Hip Hues.
- Spring for a patron ticket and you’ll also have the opportunity to sip a signature cocktail in Groff’s company at the VIP meet-and-greet reception, plus enjoy the special additional hors d’oeuvres selection. (Patrons will also be recognized in the event program.)
- Everyone who attends can bid on the fabulous goods and services offered up in our silent auction!
Not least, as an attendee of LIT UP you’ll have the warm-fuzzy feeling of supporting Nashville’s literary center, now in its sixth year of programming. The Porch is where working writers, aspiring writers of all levels, and local literary luminaries meet each other and form writing groups, take classes that lift their work to the next level, and foster the creative community necessary to continuing Tennessee’s great cultural tradition. We need you! So come party with us, Florida-style, and let’s give Lauren Groff a warm welcome to Nashville.