Booknado 2016: August – Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Theme: A book on a list…eh, we just needed one more book and this one was popular

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“Mom told me I could eat this”

I tried to feed this to my dog, but her tastes run to classic Russian Literature.

I don’t tend to read about books in depth before reading them for myself. I like surprise. So I didn’t read about this book prior to choosing it for Booknado, otherwise I might have picked a different book. Any other book. It’s my fault really, for if I’d seen that this was the story of a marriage, I would have yakked there and then and skipped out on this clunker.

Fates and Furies hits all the Literary Fiction tropes. It has idiosyncratic, artsy characters, flowery prose, Shakespeare, references to Greek mythology and ancient plays and nauseating sex descriptions. Oh joy of joys.

First, the marriage. Lotto is the typical man-child, unable to pay a bill or tie a shoe, but he’s so charming. There are hundreds of words in this novel dedicated to explaining how charming Lotto is. His wife is the typical stoic, competent, resourceful cipher, at least for the first half of the book. This follows along the idea that every genius is a disaster, and every capable, job-holding, bill-paying adult is haunted by the “splinter of evil” within. As though artistic success relies solely on fitful vomit-fests of creativity and no actual work. In a way, it’s demeaning to actual artists who work their butts off while soothing the disappointment of untalented creative wannabes.

And don’t even get me started on the treatment of class issues in this book.

It doesn’t bother me that the characters are unlikable. It bothers me that they’re uninteresting. They hew so closely to the cliches they inhabit that they never come off as real people; merely devices to serve the author’s facility with language.

The prose is strong in the first half of the book; it even elicits a sliver of emotion and existential despair, but cannot prop up the utter apathy I feel towards the plot and characters, each a caricature; my guess is that the novel is supposed to mirror the epic plays of Greek literature (Duh, it’s called Fates and Furies). I know I’m not supposed to say this, but that stuff bores me (“ever to confess you’re bored means you have no inner resources“).

Fates and Furies brings to mind some of the better marriage-centric Lit Fic novels that I’ve read, such as The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Revolutionary Roadbut it sure doesn’t join them

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