Thursday, February 28, 2008

There are two things I will carry in my pockets at the end...

"The day I returned to Templeton, steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass."

I should have known better than to try 'n resist a novel that starts the way Lauren Groff's The Monsters Of Templeton does. With a promise of words that will move you and astonish you, and make you hate yourself for not being the one who wrote them, how could I not fall for it? I did try, though. I'm not supposed to buy anything, especially not heavy, heavy books. It was only last night, due to exhaustion, mucky hair and the emotional upheaval brought on, amongst other things, reading Ausbund, her short story in Five Chapters, I finally caved in. My courageous little battle lasted all of a fortnight, but it was no small feat, believe you me. I have, after all, been a Lauren Groff-fan girl since the moment I finished reading her mesmerizing lit mag debut, Lucky Chow Fun.

The story is a sort of pre-cursor to MOT, and an introduction to Templeton, the fictional town modeled on Groff's home, Cooperstown NY, originally so christened by James Fenimore Cooper in his own fictions.

Lucky Chow Fun is lovely and airy and not a little melancholy. Groff's narrative has the perfect mixture of things that the smart, lonely girls find so appealing in literature, especially during their adolescence; it contains in it much of the sadness and sudden joy of that age.

Girls, and therefore Girl Authors, their grown-up dreamer counterparts, seem to love fairy-tales, and Groff pursues that in her story as a narrative device. In fact, all her writing that I've read thus far, is haunted by fairy-tales: their macabre logic flows beneath the innocence with which her characters perceive the world.

Fairy-tales are cultural markers that appeal to women in particular. There is something about those stories that resonates with the female audience, in a way it simply doesn't with men. Perhaps this is only because girls are exposed to them more than boys. Or maybe, because it is often the case in fairy-tales that girls are the main characters, and men are relegated to the supporting roles of Prince Charmings and benevolent gamekeepers. Girls manage on their own in frightening forests, con witches and have the determination to remain silent for seven years to save their loved ones. Boys on the other hand often appear only in the final chapter. In fairy-tales, that is. In real life, it seems to be the male narrative that dominates our culture. Which is why I'm so excited about the appearance of smart young women like Groff, in the literary field. We, the girls, need them to tell our stories.

Karen Russell another cool chick with stories to tell among them Haunting Olivia

Listening to Basia Bulat