In the afternoon, Groff deals with the business of being an author, responding to emails, doing publicity, writing blurbs. And she reads. A lot. In just the past few days, she said, she finished “Living and Dying With Marcel Proust,” completed a reread of “Moby Dick,” and started a graphic novel called “Roaming.” She estimates she reads about 300 books a year.
Groff will drop quotes into casual conversation, citing, say, Frank Lloyd Wright’s take on form and function, but she manages to do this in an entirely unaffected way, just tossing out an interesting nugget for consideration. Her editor, McGrath, said that Groff reread all of Shakespeare so she could write a version of “The Vaster Wilds” in iambic pentameter “just for fun,” as a way for her to master Elizabethan rhythms. (The final book is not in iambic pentameter.)
She is also a candid early reader for her author friends, like Hernan Diaz, whose novel “Trust” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year. Groff, Diaz said, was one of the first people to read the book.
“She’s one of our finest living writers,” Diaz said. Her work, he said, has a profoundly ethical dimension, without “finger-wagging,” and her sentences are precise and complex, but also full of emotion. “This is a near impossible balance, one that I strive for as a writer all the time, to make the syntactical edifice as sound and capacious and beautiful as possible, but then fill it with emotion and heart and vibrancy. She does that.”
Groff said that in the midst of writing the books she’s published, she has also started numerous projects that came to nothing — most of them now exiled to bankers boxes behind a curtain in her office. But a few years ago, Kallman said, she brought a manuscript with her to a bonfire.