Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff; 2009
Delicate Edible Birds is a tidy collection of short stories by Lauren Groff. There is no question that Groff is a talented writer and – at least from my perspective – the Beyonce of contemporary lit. Groff has such precise word choice that every time I’m reading something by her I’m just like YAS.
“L. DeBard and Ailette” gutted me, “Delicate Edible Birds” and “Lucky Chow Fun” haunted me; “Blythe” was my favorite. Not each of the nine stories was my favorite all the way around, but as a whole, the collection truly slays. The stories cover themes like true female independence v. love and marriage; coming of age; female friendships; and the freedom of sex – or lack thereof – for a woman v. a man. All are loosely connected by themes of metamorphosis, where women usually find unexpected happiness (though these stories are not overtly “happy” by any means).
The collection takes us across decades and continents: New York City during the Spanish influenza, modern day Philadelphia Main Line, the French countryside in WWII, upstate New York in the early eighties. A woman seeking something more is at the center of each story. In “Lucky Chow Fun,” a lonely swimmer comes of age while her small town is rocked with scandal. Harriet struggles to balance her own ambitions and identity with an all-consuming friendship in “Blythe.” In “Delicate Edible Birds,” Bern is a lone female war correspondent amongst men traveling across the French countryside in WWII. We learn about Bern through the varying perspectives of her male companions:
In her every small movement she was the woman of the future, a type that would swagger and curse, fall headlong, flaming into the hell of war, be as brave and tough as men, speak loudly and devastatingly, kick brain matter off their shoes and go unhurriedly on.
Anyway, Groff can do no wrong in my eyes. This is now the era of nasty women, and Delicate Edible Birds should be required reading for it.