The reviewer’s state of mind: it is a cold, windswept night, the trees are bare and spring has not yet come to the northeast. I fell a sense of saddened melancholy, almost Poe-like, wistful, yet in comfortable acceptance of my fate.
I have a place in the pantheon for Groff’s ‘Delicate Edible Birds’. I have been reading Vonnegut’s ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ at the same time. I loved this book when I was a kid. Vonnegut was the voice of the disaffected World War II generation, my father’s generation. Now I read the book and I suddenly don’t understand it anymore. It’s meaning has passed by, like its generation. Vonnegut’s New York only exists in a few fading memories. Enter Groff. Delicate Edible Birds is not her answer to ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’, but like it or not New Yorkers, it is the answer of this generation.
The namesake story is brilliantly wound together, a gang of tough film-noir reporters led by a gutsy 40s broad. The story is an old one though. It is the story of the rebel who was captured by the Spanish King. “If you don;t tell us where is Bolivar, we will kill ten women and children.” What does the rebel do? He is not a utilitarian, but an idealist. If I tell you where Bolivar is you kill Bolivar and then keep on killing more women and children, so my answer is no. The others plead with him to consider the women and children, to have a heart but he is not moved. In the end he too is shot.
Bern is in the same predicament, but she is morally equivocal, much more so than the rebel. She is not a rebel, she is a reporter. She is asked to sacrifice some of her dignity on behalf of her compatriots. She needs her story, that is where her dignity is defined. Her cohorts are weak, like the rebel’s cohorts, but in the end, will she give in?
If you don’t read this compilation, you are missing something very important in American Literature today. Groff may be the only real thing out there right now. I am not impressed by the current generation of writers. They just don’t get it and they just don’t have it. I would say she is the new Vonnegut, but that isn’t fair to her. I would say she has the potential to take his place in this generation of writers. This is a very refreshing return to real American Literature. If you don’t believe me, then read the book.
“Delicate Edible Birds” by Lauren Groff
Hyperion, NY, NY 2009
This Review Copyright 2009 The Botendaddy