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September 9, 2015

Book Notes - Lauren Groff "Fates and Furies"

Fates and Furies

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

As compelling as any book I have read in years, Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies is a stunning and lyrical portrait of a marriage from the perspectives of its partners. My favorite novel of the year.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Lauren Groff is a writer of rare gifts, and Fates and Furies is an unabashedly ambitious novel that delivers – with comedy, tragedy, well-deployed erudition and unmistakable glimmers of brilliance throughout."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In her own words, here is Lauren Groff's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Fates and Furies:

[Note: Fates and Furies is the story of Lotto and Mathilde. The early part of their marriage can be told by dropping in for a few minutes on the parties they hold. In fact, the third chapter of this book is entirely parties, parties strung together through time, and these songs can be thought of as the musical ghosts of those gatherings.]

Chris Isaak "Wicked Game" 1989

It's barely the nineties. Girls are wearing boxer shorts and glitter on their cheeks, hypercolor tee shirts are all the rage, and rap still had the power to shock. Lotto and Mathilde are seniors in college. They have yet to meet, but everything in their lives to this point has led them to be susceptible to the kind of amour fou that will strike them very soon. This song is one gorgeous thread of longing; it sounds like the particular kind of loneliness that you don't know you've been living with all along until the moment you fall in love.

Salt-N-Pepa, ‘Let’s Talk About Sex" 1990

There's a thunderstorm while the cast party after Lotto's last performance of "Hamlet" rages in a dorm room. This song is playing when Lotto becomes very, very drunk, strips almost naked, and looks up to see Mathilde standing in the door, and crowd-dives to get to her. Two weeks later, they get married in secret and have one cold honeymoon night on a Maine beach before moving to a small underground apartment in New York City where they're insanely happy.

En Vogue "Hold On" 1990

The June day they move into the underground apartment, when they have little more than a tower of suitcases and a mattress on the floor, Lotto and Mathilde have a housewarming party for all of their college friends, which is exactly like a college party but with less furniture and more houseplants. The old lady who lives upstairs and is gardening at the time sprays them with her hose through the open window, which only makes the girls' dresses cling more sexily as they dance to this song.

Liz Phair "Fuck and Run" 1993

This song makes Lotto laugh; he plays it on repeat during a very calm potluck in the garden one early autumn day a year after they've moved in, until Mathilde remembers that Lotto's baby-Baptist preteen sister is up visiting and runs inside to turn it off.

Nine Inch Nails "Closer" 1994

A few years into their marriage, and Lotto and Mathilde are having a Halloween party; he's come out of a great blue period, his acting career isn't going anywhere, Mathilde is the breadwinner, and Lotto has gained a little weight. This song is playing on the CD player when Mathilde goes over to her husband, whispers into Lotto's ear and they sneak off for a little fun on the stairwell, where the old lady overhears them, to her titillation. This song is scary and sexy in all the right ways.

Radiohead "Let Down" 1997

It's Christmas, Lotto's family has come to visit, he's lit a fire in the fireplace that will, later in the night, make a chimney fire, and he's feeling down in the dumps. He's lost his radiance, which he'd believed up to this point was just a switch he could flick on or off at will. The idea that he has disappointed his Mathilde is almost more than he can take. Deep in his mope he gets very, very drunk and launches into a sad version of Jingle Bells, though if he had much of a voice, he might have sung this song instead.

Prince "1999"

1998 is tipping into 1999, and the closest friends of Lotto and Mathilde sit around feeling old and tired on New Year's Eve in their apartment, and of course this song is playing on the computer. There's an argument, Lotto gets blotto, the friends go home, and Mathilde, while willing to ring in the new year the way the way they usually do, with sex, falls asleep. Lotto opens his computer and, in an outpouring of emotion, changes his own life.

The Magnetic Fields "The Book of Love" 1999

No matter how Lotto felt about himself during all these years, no matter how disappointed and sick he was with all of his lack of success after all of his potential, Mathilde always felt about him the way this song sounds. [And as I'm a big sap, I can never hear it without getting a little weepy].

Bonus: Jacques Brel "Mathilde"

Jacques Brel was a genius, and I thought of this song when I named my Mathilde, but I would love to hear someone with a keen sense of melancholy or a strange and otherworldly voice sing it and make it sound a little less like something out of a Broadway musical. All this to say that my Mathilde is more subtly ferocious than Brel's.

Lauren Groff and Fates and Furies links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

BookPage review
Electric Literature review
Kirkus review
New York Times review
New York Times review
Publishers Weekly review
Washington Post review

Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Arcadia
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Delicate Edible Birds
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for The Monsters of Templeton
New Yorker interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)