Author Lauren Groff Talks Marriage, Privilege and Arts in the Trump Age Ahead of Boise Visit 

  • Lauren Groff
People are entitled to their contradictions. For author Lauren Groff, a contradiction arose when listening to some Baby Boomers at the gym.

"I got tired of hearing that they ... had pulled themselves up out of poverty to become the people that they are," she said. "It was something that made me angry, and I've been thinking about the privileges inherent in marriage, which is an institution I don't necessarily believe in, even though I am myself in one, and it was the best decision of my life."

The idea of privilege lingered in her mind for years, finally becoming Fates and Furies, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and then-President Barack Obama's favorite novel of 2015. Groff will be in Boise as the final speaker in The Cabin's Readings and Conversations series Thursday, April 13 at The Egyptian Theatre.

The first half of Fates and Furies consists of a playwright telling the story of his career and marriage. The second half is the same story as told by the playwright's wife, whose secrets and unobserved maneuvers have shaped her husband's life and their relationship more than he can know.

In the novel, as in life, not all who wear boots are the ones gripping the bootstraps.

click to enlarge Fates and Furies was a National Book Award finalist and was then-President Barack Obama's favorite novel of 2015. - LAURENGROFF.COM
  • Fates and Furies was a National Book Award finalist and was then-President Barack Obama's favorite novel of 2015.
Groff objects to marriage as a holdover from a time when women and the so-called women's "sphere" were considered "inferior." Her ambivalence to it as an institution and the "tenuous and difficult and scary" implications of having children have soured her toward matrimony in theory. Enter the contradiction: Her personal experiences with marriage and child-rearing have, however, been satisfying and meaningful.

The tension between theory and practice has allowed her to peer into a presumably happy fictional marriage based on equality, revealing the hidden privileges and conflicts of the people in it.

"The job of the fiction writer is to look at something so closely that the pattern comes out," she said.

Fates and Furies was a word-of-mouth bestseller and became a mile marker in ongoing national conversations about privilege. The election of President Donald Trump was another.

Groff sees the Trump presidency—with its anti-immigration stance, denigration of public arts funding and targeting of the Affordable Care Act—as an attempt "to suppress the needs of the vulnerable." She offered literature as an antidote that humanizes people on other sides of political, social and economic divides.

"Literature is giving voice, it's expanding empathy, it's paying attention," she said. "These are things people in power right now are trying to suppress."
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