This week I fractured my wrist, making extensive typing an unpleasant experience. Brandon, my fiancé, was to the rescue. He recently finished reading Matrix by Lauren Groff, so he volunteered to be our Book Review Guest Contributor.
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Published Sept 7, 2021, Riverhead Books, 272 pp
Winner, 2022 Joyce Carol Oates Prize
Finalist, 2021 National Book Award in Fiction
Lauren Groff’s Matrix unfolds as a modern-day classic portraying an uncanny depiction of life in the 12th century and focusing on conditions for women during those times. Groff’s novel tells the story of young Cinderella-like Marie, harshly cast out of the Royal Court at age 17 by Queen Eleanor due to her illegitimate birth status and her unseemly physical stature (she’s very tall and manly looking). Eleanor shuns her, sending Marie to a life of abstinence and hard work as the prioress of a decrepit abbey in the far countryside. The novel is stark in its depiction of the trials and tribulations of life in an abbey during the Middle Ages and was inspired by Groff’s meeting with a historian who was sharing notes about medieval life.
The story begins with the jolt of Marie’s banishment and pulls no punches as she stumbles through building a new life for herself. She faces the harsh realities of a broken-down abbey in disrepair, staffed by a group of women perilously trying to survive in dire and harsh conditions. They are jealous of Marie who comes from royalty to take leadership of the abbey — and they become masters of disparagement as she comes to grips with her lot in life at the whim of a petty Queen. Over time, Marie begins to experience mystical visions that frame the world with enduring love, caring, and optimism in light of the destruction of the Catholic Church and the Crusades. These visions drive Marie to vigorously reinvent the abbey as an estate providing sustenance to the community. This change offers a sense of purpose to the women of the abbey, giving them hope in a paternalistic world.
Groff’s lyrical narrative brings to life an enduring sisterhood that becomes the central element of the story. As Marie transforms the abbey, she becomes a protector of the women of the abbey, and brings a renewed meaning to their lives. As Groff stated after writing the book, “My vision was to keep men marginal in this story.” She gives us a bold and profoundly feminist narrative wrought with emotional complexity, wit, and sensuality in a setting that is framed in austerity — a contrast with modern-day feminism. In a passionate vision, Marie is told (as are we) that she should, “Open your hands and let your life go. It has never been yours to do with what you will.”
Instead of a matching drink this week, I want to share some news tidbits with you.
First, the NY Times had a great article last Sunday about the history of giving books as holiday gifts.
How a Good Book Became the Richest of Holiday Gifts (unlocked)
And now for this: Jack Daniels is suing a dog toy company for trademark infringement for a squeaky toy called Bad Spaniels. Shaped in a similar way (but fake, rubber, and squeaky), Jack Daniels is worried that the toy will confuse customers. And the case is going to the Supreme Court!
It’s not uncommon for squeaky toys to mimic human brands. My dachshunds have had Sniffany’s in a plush blue box, Chewy Vuitton, Grrrona, and more.
I understand trademark infringement, but I feel like this falls under Fair Use as it’s a parody. In a similar case, Louis Vuitton sued the maker of the Chewy Vuitton toy. LV lost, so there is precedent.
There are several ways to determine Fair Use, including:
Will this item impede sales of the original? No, I bet that whiskey drinkers will buy this for their dogs!
Is the work transformative? Yes, it is significantly different from the original. I am not going to confuse a rubber squeaky bottle with a real bottle of whiskey.
Tito’s is my vodka of choice, because they support dog rescue. They are also ahead of the game. They actually sell a Tito’s squeaky toy! Tito’s knows how to have fun.
Jack Daniels, on the other hand, needs to acquire a sense of humor.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully my wrist will be working better next week and we’ll try a new cocktail. I found a new wine shop, too, so I have a wealth of great wine at my fingertips now.
I’ll leave you with a photo of my Guest Contributor and goofy dachshund.
Love this. So glad Brandon was on the ball to help. Way to go with the teamwork.
That book sounds great. And that JD’s suit sounds absurd.