In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what would become a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic, rollicking, and tragic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after. Arcadia’s inhabitants include Handy, a musician and the group’s charismatic leader; Astrid, a midwife; Abe, a master carpenter; Hannah, a baker and historian; and Abe and Hannah’s only child, the book’s protagonist, Bit, who is born soon after the commune is created.
While Arcadia rises and falls, Bit, too, ages and changes. If he remains in love with the peaceful agrarian life in Arcadia and deeply attached to its residents—including Handy and Astrid’s lithe and deeply troubled daughter, Helle—how can Bit become his own man? How will he make his way through life and the world outside of Arcadia where he must eventually live? With Arcadia, her first novel since her lauded debut, The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff establishes herself not only as one of the most gifted young fiction writers at work today but also as one of our most accomplished literary artists.
About Lauren Groff
Lauren Groff was born in 1978 in Cooperstown, N.Y. She graduated from Amherst College and has an MFA in fiction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her short stories have appeared in a number of journals, including the New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, One Story, and Subtropics, and in the anthologies Best American Short Stories 2007 and Best American Short Stories 2010, Pushcart Prize XXXII, and Best New American Voices 2008. A story will be included in the 2012 edition of PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories. She was awarded the Axton Fellowship in Fiction at the University of Louisville, and has had residencies and fellowships at Yaddo, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and Ragdale.
Lauren’s first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, published in February 2008, was a New York Times and Booksense bestseller, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers. Her second book, Delicate Edible Birds, is a collection of stories. Her second novel, Arcadia, will be out in March 2012.
She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and two sons. Her website is www.laurengroff.com
“Richly peopled and ambitious and oh, so lovely, Lauren Groff’s Arcadia is one of the most moving and satisfying novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s not possible to write any better without showing off.” —Richard Russo, author of the novel That Old Cape Magic and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Empire Falls
“Part Stone Diaries, part Lord of the Flies, part something out of a Shakespearean tragedy, Lauren Groff’s Arcadia is so uniquely absorbing that you finish it as if waking from a dream. Groff is one of our most talented writers, and Arcadia one of the most revelatory, magical, and ambitious novels I’ve read in years.” —Kate Walbert, author of the New York Times bestselling novel A Short History of Women
“Arcadia feels true, as do the characters who populate this extraordinary novel, which lingers on passing moments in time and highlights the importance of place in preserving not only our memories, but also ourselves.” —Hannah Tinti, author of the bestselling and award-winning novel The Good Thief
Lauren Groff’s ‘Arcadia’: Trouble in paradise
The Washington Post Book Review – March 13, 2012 (Excerpt)
Page by page through Lauren Groff’s story about a hippie commune in western New York, I kept worrying that it was too good to last. Not the commune — it’s a mess from the start — I’m talking about the novel, which unfolds one moment of mournful beauty after another. As she did in her inventive debut, “The Monsters of Templeton” (2008), Groff once again gives us a young person — in this case a boy — struggling to understand himself and his peculiar history. But this time, she’s moved beyond the legends of James Fenimore Cooper that infused “Monsters” and taken on the more universal myth of paradise lost.
Stories about utopian settlements usually suffer from our dyspeptic need to humble anyone suspected of radical idealism. Nathaniel Hawthorne set the national tone early by satirizing his comrades’ credulity in “The Blithedale Romance.” Nowadays, as we take our solitary way, disparaging the naivete of 1970s communes offers liberals and conservatives a rare “Kumbaya” moment. For anyone still naive enough to feel nostalgic about free-love merrymakers, T.C. Boyle’s “Drop City” was, like, a total buzz kill, man, and at first Groff, who has published stories in the New Yorker, the Atlantic and “The Best American Short Stories,” seems to be strumming the same lament. But “Arcadia” offers something surprising: if not a redemption of utopian ideals, then at least a complicated defense of the dream. [Read the full article...]
‘Arcadia’: Children Of The Commune
NPR Book Review – March 15, 2012 (Excerpt)
It’s so tempting to make fun of idealists. The Occupy protesters? Their message may get respect in certain precincts, but they’re still basically weirdos. Bicycling locavores? Portlandia has exposed them as self-righteous buffoons. Even Hollywood is in on the action lately (seeWanderlust), mining communes for all the dirty jokes those freaks can furnish. What a relief! If there were a real critique there, we might have had to take a closer look at our own lives.
Lauren Groff’s new novel, Arcadia, takes us deep into the heart of a community of naysayers and rebels — a commune in upstate New York in the 1970s and ’80s. She maps out this wonderland of dreamers who build their trash-picked utopia (which bears a strong resemblance to the Farm, a long-running community in Tennessee), first in vans and trailers on a hillside and then in a shabby, sprawling mansion.
Early on, the Arcadians are a core of several dozen college-educated idealists joined by some equally lettered acid casualties known as Trippies (in a stupor, one of them recites a line of Rilke, adding, “My translation, of course”); later, they grow to nearly 1,000 souls, including tents full of dour young runaways. In their commune, they bake their daily bread, make tofu and tempeh for all and raise their children collectively. They quote Melville and Virgil, teach Milton to their kids and donate trust funds to the community when times get rough. Raised in privilege, horrified by war, they’ve determined to find a kinder way of being in the world. [Read the full article...]
From ’60s Patchouli and Free Love to Darker Days a Half-Century Later
The New York Times Book Review – March 18, 2012 (Excerpt)
Lauren Groff’s “Arcadia” is so immersed in the life of a hippie commune that patchouli ought to waft off its pages. It’s a novel of the 1960s and ’70s in which acid is dropped, groats are served, “Froggie Went A Courtin’ ” is sung, a cult leader is worshiped and somebody literally hugs a tree. An outhouse at Arcadia smells like wet muskrat. Children are reared in a Kid Herd. This does not sound like everyone’s cup of rose-hip tea.
So the transporting magic of “Arcadia” comes as a surprise. Ms. Groff has taken a quaint, easily caricatured community and given it true universality, not just the knee-jerk kind that Arcadian platitudes espoused. Even more unexpectedly, she has expanded this period piece so that it stretches from 1965 to 2018, coaxing forth a remarkable amount of suspense from the way her characters change over time. And a book that might have been small, dated and insular winds up feeling timeless and vast.
The raw beauty of Ms. Groff’s prose is one of the best things about “Arcadia.” But it is by no means this book’s only kind of splendor. Ms. Groff draws her readers into the mind of Bit, the first kid born into the midst of Arcadia’s affectations. His real first name is Ridley, but he earned his nickname by being very small. “Bit” is supposed to mean “Little Bit of a Hippie.” But it also describes the bit-by-bit way this book coalesces as Bit, its main character, begins to understand his surroundings. [Read the full article...]
South of Eden - ‘Arcadia,’ by Lauren Groff
The New York Times Book Review – April 6, 2012 (Excerpt)
Lauren Groff’s second novel, “Arcadia,” arrives bearing enthusiastic blurbs from Kate Walbert and Richard Russo (who claims “it’s not possible to write any better without showing off”). But readers doomed to miss their subway stops will wish the cover also included a warning: “This novel will swallow you whole.”
“Arcadia” centers on Bit Stone, the kindhearted only child of Hannah and Abe Stone, two of the finest freaky parents in recent literary memory, who raise him in the western New York commune they helped found in the 1970s. In Arcadia, they intended to establish a home “outside the evil of commerce” and “a beacon to light up the world.” This experiment lasts until Bit is 14.
The novel then abruptly leaps to post-9/11 New York City, where the Stones fled when Arcadia failed them. By now Bit is a grown man with a child of his own and a job teaching “the lost art of the darkroom” in the photography department at a local university. Having “barely survived” his transition from the commune all those years ago, he’s now fully adjusted to city life — although he still feels professionally numb and emotionally crippled. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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