Introductions: Lauren Groff
October 19, 2021
By Rebecca Hoogs, Interim Executive Director
It is a great honor to begin our 2021/22 Literary Arts Series with Lauren Groff, and I am especially grateful to Lauren for joining us in-person and online tonight. We are here to celebrate the publication of her latest book, Matrix, which was just short-listed for the National Book Award in Fiction. Her previous books include Fates and Furies, Florida, Arcadia, Delicate Edible Birds, and The Monsters of Templeton.
Matrix is loosely based upon a 12th century historical figure, Marie de France, who in Groff’s imaginings, is packed off to an abbey in dampest England at age 17, basically for being too tall and too ugly to be married. Luckily for her, she’s educated and knows how to get things done.
Thus commenced a book I could not put down—a book about female power, and ambition, and creativity; a book about the body’s desires and phases—the erotic, the joy of physical work, the fire of menopause; a book about the mystery of creation and the creative, about the ways that women can very much make and mother outside of the constraint of childbirth.
Like Madeline Miller in Circe or Song of Achilles, Groff deftly inhabits an ancient world while also making it feel utterly modern. Her sentences, descriptions, and metaphors never slip out of the 12th century, and yet I found myself thinking of contemporary issues of bodily autonomy, of slipping abortion rights, of the systems of corruption that have corrupted our planet, of the way women in power are often still underpaid and mistrusted.
The Guardian called the book “a beautiful, unclassifiable book, a queer history that recovers a great poet from the past and fills her with glorious, corporeal life.” And the Atlantic praised Groff’s “rigorous attentiveness to humanity.” And, though set in an abbey, this is less a book about organized religion so much as it is about one very organized woman and the power that women can harness when they work together. It is also a book about authority, authorship, authors—a book about an author.
Please join me in welcoming the head scribe in the scriptorium of the present moment, Lauren Groff.
Rebecca Hoogs gave this introduction to open our 2021/22 Literary Arts Series with Lauren Groff on October 17, 2021.