On Thursday, November 30, Colgate’s English Department welcomed novelist and short story writer Lauren Groff to speak at Love Auditorium for the latest installment of the annual Living Writers series. Colgate’s Living Writers class had recently finished reading Groff’s novel, Fate’s and Furies. As its title suggests, Groff’s work is often influenced by mythical imagery and themes. Her writing tends to draw from a multitude of eras including Greek, medieval and Shakespearean.
Groff read from her soon-to-be-published work of short stories titled Florida. Groff said that her writing “comes from darkness,” which was evident in her reading of “Snake Stories.” This short story connects imagery of the fall of man from the garden of Eden with the presence of snakes in Florida. Groff’s writing brought up issues of divorce, marriage, adultery and sexual violence.
“More women should write about their rage,” Groff said, after describing herself as “a woman filled with rage.”
Groff often uses her anger as a means to create a platform to talk about complex issues. One audience member questioned two characters’ sexual relations in the book Fates and Furies.
“Both of their reactions to sex are complicated because sex is complicated. I’m tired of seeing books that make sex so easy. I’m ticked off by how simplistic it is,” Groff said.
Groff also spoke to how complicated and different sex within a marriage can be relative to the young, spirited sex that mainstream media frequently displays.
Fiction often gives writers the leniency to address topics in their everyday lives. Groff’s writing explores the female voice specifically, and pays particular attention to topics including anger and relationships. Fiction creates a veil where an author is able to talk about themselves without ever really talking about themselves.
“To be a fiction writer you have to be a murderer deep down,” Groff said. For her, inspiration needs to come from a conflicted, dark place in order to produce something worthwhile.
There is something to gain from sitting and listening to a writer read their own work. However, while Groff’s writing is powerful her reading lacked the tone and strength her writing deserved. Her tone and inflection seemed off and paced too fast. Her strong suit laid more with the second half of the program that left a question and answer session for the audience members. For an author who speaks so passionately about voicing anger and speaking on complicated issues, her voice lacked the ability to fully communicate those issues. It was hard to focus on the weight of these subjects when the author read it with strained inflections, which is unfortunate given how important it is to address these issues.
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