Review: The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff

What an utterly fantastic book.

The finest novel in American Literature in a long time.

The themes are very intricately interwoven.

I won’t be able to review this book right away.

It will take too much time, so I will break with tradition and revise this review over time.

Although I will level some of my harshest criticism to date against poor Lauren’s work, I qualify it with this: her writing in this work is utterly brilliant. This again will be a work of American literature that will be examined in Literature classes for at least the next 50 years.

The ending words are epic and will endear the book to me forever. The best simple phrase in American Literature since “So it goes”.

It is an absolute must-read for anyone who loves true American Literature.

I will say this, it is a remarkable ode to Cooperstown. We all needed that.

All we ever get is: “huh that’s where the baseball hall of fame is and such”.

Now, thanks to Lauren Groff, we can build on the old mythology with a new one. She gives us back our sense of mystery and history in Cooperstown. She pulls us back behind the hall of fame era.

What I like:

The elaborate geneological research. The time in the library.

The juxstaposition of modern day with past character development.

She draws in Cooper, his family and his characters and makes them into real people for the purposes of the story.

She gives us our very own Loch Ness Monster. I really like the monster.

She loves the Yankees (this is truly hip)

She channels Erica Jong with her: “Yes I am feminist but I actually like men style” which is very refreshing and recalls the Jong perspective of female sexuality. Botendaddy’s theory is you can be feminist or even lesbian yet not hate men. If you hate men, then you have unresolved issues or are pursuing another agenda.

What I don’t like:

The whole super-cool, super-hip academia thing is very derivative of Michael Chabon (whose writing I utterly detest). Note: Botendaddy has been involved in several university research projects and I love the Academic environment. Both of Botendaddy’s parents were archeologists at one time. Again, Groff is a vastly superior writer to Chabon.

The thinly-veiled academic snobbery-no one is truly complete unless they went to Harvard or Stanford.

The neo-I’m against organized religion but only if it’s christianity. (I’m not a Christian, but I find a lot less to fear in them and their various representations be they Mormon, Catholic Protestant than I do in some other faiths). But the lake monster, it’s pure goodness, it’s love of people even though they could harm it, the rebirth, could it be an unintended metaphor for Christ? Does Groff separate Christ as a being from the church as a social construct?


Review: Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff

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

Highest Recommendation

This Review Copyright 2009 The Botendaddy