CBR 11 – The Collection
This is the National Book Award finalist collection by Lauren Groff, the author of Fates and Furies, a book that a lot of people loved and I thought was not good. This collection is better than that novel, but limited in other ways. Part of the reason that I didn’t like Fates and Furies is that there was an inconsistent tone, which had the novel straddling a line between realistic and unrealistic (either would be fine and good) but that line was less successful than it could be. This collection works better because if something isn’t working, it’s short fiction, so we can move beyond it. Some of the stories are pretty successful. To me the stories that feel like the narrator/protagonist is a woman very similar to Groff dealing with what has become increasingly a version of the modern condition we are all familiar with — being perpetually scared and angry and frustrated and sad at all times, at least if you’re a person who isn’t a complete nightmare or in complete denial. This state affects this character so strongly while she’s also trying to help guide her young children through the world without infecting them with the same sickness. The stories that inhabit this world are very good, and while I am not sure if a whole novel based on them would be as successful, they were the best parts of this book.
The other stories either fall into the category of similar to this, but less good, but changing the context (usually in time) or falling into the more ridiculous fake fabulist feeling of Fates and Furious.