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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Review: Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies: A Novel - Lauren Groff

Not what I expected. Fates and Furies; one of the best books of the year; a story about marriage. None of these are an accurate description of what I just read.


For starters, the title is all wrong. I came up with a few suggestions I think might be better:


  • Sex, Lies, and Playacting


  • Lar’s Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, Part One: Fates; Part Two: Furies


  • What’s Love Got to Do with It


  • Indecent Proposal

I guess all those titles were kind of taken. I could go on, but the game grows tiresome.


Obviously, Fates and Furies is sexual. In the Fates half of the novel, the sex is paired with parties. In Furies, it’s paired with depression. That’s the simplest summary of this book: Sex. Sex. Party. Sex. Party. Party. Sex. Sadness. Sex. Depression. Sex. Sex. Double-sad face. Oh yeah, and there is a lot of playwriting too.


I’m no prude, but too much is too much. Also, it’s not believable. In what world does a man with a thousand partners, come together with a woman with virtually none, and have a sex life that is perfect? Four times a day? On the beach? In the stairway of an apartment building? Oh, we just had a huge fight, honey, and you hurt my feelings, but now I’m horny? Only in my dreams would my wife try to seduce me if I said the things Lotto says to his wife. Sorry, this kind of desperate genitalia grabbing, bangy-bang against the wall decade-after-decade marriage is only believable in erotica and the absolute best of marriages (which Lotto and Mathilde do not have, in my opinion).


Paired with Lauren Groff’s flowery, metaphor-filled writing style, the sex seemed over the top. I was reminded of that scene from 10 Things I Hate About You, the one where it is revealed the guidance counselor writes erotica.
what's another word for engorged
That’s how Groff writes here. She clearly has a way with words, but by the twenty-ninth sex scene, she’s clearly running out of ideas of how to make it original. The result, copulation that alludes to, but does not actually involve, rockets, vanilla ice cream cones, oysters, and so forth, ad infinitum. A better idea: cut eighty percent of these scenes by eighty percent and worry not about the language of Lotto’s “quivering member”.


(You do realize that this is the kind of book that’s going to be read at book clubs. It will, in many years to follow, be added to book groups made up of many elderly people who are likely to suffer heart attacks at the shock of such sexual acts. The elderly should be sheltered from such vile things.)


Moving on, there are so many unanswered questions in this story. Who was behind the airport push? With all the attention it received, it seemed like it was going to be relevant at some point. Was there more to the fate of Leo? Again, the story seemed to be building up around something big. Was there more to Mathilde’s online dating business? That would’ve been a good lead to follow. But no, all roads lead to sex and more sex.


Further, I felt the story which seemed to be based in realism was horribly unrealistic. Lotto’s mummy…

investigates Mathilde, sends her findings to her son which get intercepted, but never mentions this fact to her son in their webchats? Player Lotto, having just come off of his thousandth sexcapade in his short life, sees Mathilde across the room, immediately asks her to marry him, and remains faithful to her for the rest of his life? A playwright becomes a celebrity and is recognized by throngs of fans on the street?

(show spoiler)

There were so many moments when I rolled my eyes and thought, “really?”


And please, Lotto is constantly described as an innocent. REALLY? In what universe is a man who manipulates his way into the pants of a thousand young girls an innocent? How many girls did he “innocently” leave brokenhearted? If I were king, such men would be jailed. (Or castrated.)


The longer I go on, the more I wonder why I gave this novel three stars. Frankly, there was little I enjoyed about it. What else? The names were pretentious. The backstory was tiresome and often poorly placed. What I liked mostly comes down to the hope I had held for years that I was going to like Lauren Groff’s writing. I have copies of Delicate Edible Birds and Arcadia that I purchased a few years ago on my bookshelf. It probably would’ve been better to have started with one of them, but I let the hype lead me. That said, I will still give Groff another try. I know from what I just read that the writing will be over the top, but I can forgive such style if the story does not elicit frequent eye rolling.


As for Fates and Furies, I’m beginning to think three stars was too generous. Clearly, given the rave reviews, I missed something great. Obviously, my lack of understanding and appreciation for this novel is a deficit of my own tastes and reasoning. I am to blame. Truly, I hate countering the views of those whose opinions I value who loved this book. I just cannot stomach the idea of all those old people having heart attacks without having tried my best to warn them.