The Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar: Fates and Furies, featuring the author Lauren Groff April 21-22, 2017

This year marks the 14th annual Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar, W&L's ultimate book club. Sponsored by the W&L Class of 1951 in honor of classmate Tom Wolfe, the program annually features a distinguished writer and observer of the contemporary American scene. Last year's program featured Daniel James Brown and his much beloved best-seller, The Boys in the Boat. This year's seminar will feature Lauren Groff and her critically acclaimed novel, Fates and Furies, a National Book Award finalist. Other works by Groff include, The Monsters of Templeton, shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, Arcadia, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize, and a short story collection Delicate Edible Birds.

Among its many recognitions, Fates and Furies was selected as the book of the year (2015) by the unlikely pairing of and President Barack Obama. Even with such enthusiasm and the scores of high praise reviews, its ever-expanding readership seems to be a product of word-of-mouth. It is no wonder, for the novel focuses on familiar territory for most readers. Every marriage has two sides-indeed, as every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of 24 years.

At age 22, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but as their story unfolds we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads artfully woven, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and informed, Groff's novel serves up love, art, creativity, and the nuances of individual power in marriage unlike any treatment before it. The writing is impressive throughout, as The New York Times Sunday Book Review asserts, "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."

Joining Lauren Groff in the program are Taylor Walle, assistant professor of English, and Karla Murdock, Elmes Professor of Psychology and department head. Each will discuss Fates and Furies from a variety of perspectives. What does the story tell us about marriage and the secrets that spouses keep from each other? How does one's youth before marriage play out in behaviors and dispositions that continue to shape a union long after its happy beginning? What effect does the shifting perspectives and narrative structure of the novel have on our understanding of Lotto and Mathilde? The discussion of these questions and more should make for a most stimulating seminar.

Lauren Groff photo (c) Megan Brown