Lauren Groff has logged time in places that are woven into my soul. Groff is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin — located in my hometown and current city of residence, Madison — and she teaches in the acclaimed MFA program at Warren Wilson College, where I, too, drew a paycheck for many years. It would be understandable if that overlap is what drove me to read her art in the first place. That’s not the case, though. I wasn’t aware of any of that when I introduced myself to her writing, with her 2012 novel, Arcadia. And if I discovered it subsequently, I’d forgotten all about when I read her follow-up, the magnificent Fates and Furies. I didn’t need the imagined kinship of place to feel connected to Groff’s novels. I had her words.
Groff writes with an enviable combination of intimacy and intricacy. She goes so deeply into her characters that it can start to feel like living the fiction besides them rather than merely observing as pages are turned. The language is precise without being showy. I almost want to fling descriptors suited for metaphysical feats — calling the writing mystical or magically — but they invariably have a connotation of drifting foofiness that couldn’t be further from Groff’s accomplishment. The structures are laudably sound, built on the steel beams of classic techniques of fiction.
Groff recently announced the pending publication of her fourth novel, a tantalizing tome of historical fiction titled Matrix. “I hope that I haven’t yet written the book I’d like to be remembered for,” Groff told The Guardian not long ago. Maybe Matrix will be that book. Maybe it won’t. I’m excited to keep populating my shelves with every new possible nominee for Groff’s quintessential work.
Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “My Writers” tag.