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His father dies when Lotto is young; it is his atrocious mother, Antoinette—never more than an operatic villain—who cuts off his inheritance when she discovers that he has married the inappropriate and enigmatic Mathilde. Groff sows her text with bracketed authorial interventions, in which she plays the role of omniscient Greek chorus, reminding us that she is measuring the thread for her invented spools.Lotto’s progress is regularly interrupted in this way.During his twenties, Lotto struggles to make it as an actor, while Mathilde works at an art gallery, earning the regular money.Though naturally ebullient, Lotto, whose father used to say that he would become President or an astronaut, suffers from depression, and starts drinking.This tone, essentially mock-heroic, is extremely difficult to maintain, and it can’t be said that “Fates and Furies” finally succeeds in that maintenance.But the first part of the novel, at least, which glorifies and lays bare its golden hero, Lancelot Satterwhite, is consistently surprising and vital.Mathilde quits the art gallery, and they move to the country, where she keeps house and manages Lotto’s business interests.
They are sentenced by fate and charged with fury; they are heroic and doomed, modern and ancient, comic and tragic, dramatic and diminished.
She loves to cook and clean and edit my work, it makes her happy to do these things.”Groff is an original writer, whose books are daringly nonconformist; she has a sharp gift for mimesis, yet she also tends naturally toward imagining semi-autonomous worlds.
Admirably, she writes inside and outside history at once, refusing to play safe by merely contouring the known.
Salvation of school, scholarship, modeling for spare change. The couple move to New York (it is the early nineteen-nineties).
They are poor (he has been cut off from the family wealth, a penalty for his spousal choice) but happy, heroically bohemian, erotically enchanted with each other.