In this episode of The Archive Project, we feature Lauren Groff from a Portland Arts & Lectures event in early 2023 at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Groff is the author of six books of fiction, the last three of which, Fates and Furies, Florida, and Matrix were all national bestsellers and all finalists for the National Book Award.
One of the many delights in reading Groff’s books is the dramatic shift in time, place, and focus from title to title. She is not an artist writing the same book over and over. From a multi-century saga of a town and its secrets, to a boy at a hippie commune in upstate New York, to look at a modern Greek tragedy, to the wild country that is the state of Florida, and life in a medieval nunnery during the twelfth century–every time you pick up one of her books you are transported. It’s thrilling as a reader, and it speaks to Groff’s immense talent that there are thematic through-lines moving across such a diverse body of work.
In her talk, Groff reveals the deeper undercurrents of her work and her unusual process of writing. While she professes to be “profoundly secular,” the core of her talk revolves around God, poetry, love and sexuality. She weaves in discussion of the biblical Song of Solomon, to her own biography and her spiritual journey, and the universal themes found in the work of Gerard Manley Hopkins. She manages to do all this with an incredible sense of humor and a light touch which feels, like her fiction, somehow slightly magical.
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Lauren Groff is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels and two short story collections. Her 2021 novel Matrix, which Esquire described as “Incandescent… a radiant work of imagination and accomplishment,” was a National Book Award finalist and was selected by President Barack Obama as one of his favorite books of the year. Her works have won The Story Prize, the ABA Indies’ Choice Award, and France’s Grand Prix de l’Héroïne. Groff is a three-time finalist for the National Book Award and twice for the Kirkus Prize, and has been shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Prize, the Southern Book Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Prize. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute, and was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and two sons.