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Group Themed Reads: Discussions > The Monsters of Templeton - Discussion lead by Jenny

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message 1: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (last edited Jan 07, 2009 02:22AM) (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments The lead discussion will generally contain spoilers!

There will be a separate thread for random The Monsters of Templeton chat.

message 2: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (last edited Jan 03, 2009 02:52AM) (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I found this and thought I would share it with you all. It's from The Reading Group Guide and can be found on Lauren Groff's website


1. What was your experience growing up in Cooperstown, New York? Did you always have a fascination with its history, or was that something
that you came to later in life?

My family is not originally from Cooperstown, but I was born there, so I have always had a fierce, possessive pride in my town. I tried to mirror in my novel exactly the way I felt about Cooperstown: it’s such a beautiful, rich place, though not without its irritations and drawbacks. I grew up in the heart of the town, about a block and a half from the Hall of Fame, right on the lake—in a house named Averell Cottage, exactly the way I described it in the book, all haunted and wonky—at least to my overactive imagination as a child. I was a really shy, really bookish, easily frightened little girl with horrible eyesight, so when I awoke at night in my my creaky, drafty old house and the light from the window slanted a certain way, I really did see ghosts. Living in a house so old, one just feels as if one is living in layers upon layers of history. Also, in the basement of the house they actually did at one time find slave fetters, and that made a huge impression on me—I wrote Hetty, in part, to try to rewrite what I knew about the house where I grew up.

2. Along those lines, did you discover anything surprising or unexpected about Cooperstown in your research? Do you think about Cooperstown in a different way when you return there?

Because my hometown was my companion for years and years, I do find that now I love it more deeply—not more—just with a better understanding and a better forgiveness of its flaws than I had when I was younger. I do grieve that Cooperstown has changed so much in my own lifetime, but one of the elements of my book is how we accept change, so I know I’m being a little bit of a hypocrite to mourn Smalley’s Theater and the Farm-and-Home and all the on baseball-related stores that used to line Main Street. Also, not everything I know about my town went into my book—there was so much history I learned that I wasn’t able to put in. When I visit now, I find myself discoursing on great length about, say, the hops industry in the late nineteenth century or the life and times of James Fenimore Cooper—until I finally see that the eyes of my poor husband have been glazed over for half an hour. If he’s lucky, I let him sidle away.

3. Willie and Vivienne are such great characters, both very layered, interesting, and complicated. Were there any people in your own life who inspired them?

Not per se—but every character in fiction comes from a place within that writer herself, so Vivienne and Willie both have some element of me in them, I guess.
My mother would like for me to note that she is nothing like Vivienne—she is a hummingbird of a woman, very tiny and very happy, and was a majorette in college when Vivienne was a burgeoning hippie—but there are both a hidden depth and a fierce, overwhelming love in Vi that I think do come from my
mother. Willie and I are mostly different—I grew up with a father, have brilliant, incredibly competitive siblings, and have always, for the most part, been much more secure than Willie is—but Willie and I obviously share a hometown and a house and a love of all things historical, and Willie’s the kind of wild, reckless, beautiful girl I’ve admired from afar my whole life.

4. What was the writing process like for you? Did you write the story first and fill in the history later, or vice versa, or neither?

I always knew that I was going to write about my hometown, and that I was going to use a great deal of its history, but I did about a year’s worth of research before I wrote even one word of the story. I ended up with four complete drafts, each vastly different, and Willie as she is wasn’t even born until the last draft. At one point, the novel was a collection of six novellas, with little overlap;
another, the ghost of Marmaduke narrated; in another, Willie was actually a boy. I write full drafts, then throw them out completely, and start anew. It’s difficult, and very discouraging, but I do feel that I start the next draft in a much
stronger way because at least I understand how I had failed the time before.

5. Who is your favorite character in the novel?

I wish I could be a good parent and say I love all my characters equally, but unfortunately I’d be lying. A few are especially dear to me, though for different reasons: Vivienne is so wacky and strange, deeply kind and warm: Willie has the most in common with me, though, as I said, we’re very different people: and I’m fascinated by Noname. I adore the Running Buds, because they’re modeled on my father’s group of running friends, all of whom have been proxy fathers to me throughout most of my life, and who have such an incredible depth of love for Cooperstown and one another that it’s really all I could do to try to harness some of that. Maybe most of all, I love Glimmey—he’s the beating heart of the
book, to me. I don’t think I’d feel the same about my hometown if—in the summers, when I’m deep in the middle of the lake, treading water—I didn’t suspect that there’s a benign, preternatural, ancient presence there below me, singing and beautiful.

message 3: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (last edited Jan 03, 2009 02:57AM) (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments From reading the first couple of chapters I can already tell that the town of Templeton plays a huge part in this novel. She names every place by name, therefore my first question is:

In the Author’s Note, the author discusses writing about her hometown of Cooperstown, New York, and calling the fictional town Templeton. Do you
think that The Monsters of Templeton could have taken place in any other locale? Why is the actual town’s history so important to the book’s presentday
events? How would the book have changed if she had decided to call the town Cooperstown?

message 4: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (nikkibfabulous) Hmmm...I imagine this story could have taken place somewhere else, but "Tempelton" has such a rich history. The town was founded by a man who fathered most of the people in it!! LOL That is also the reason it is so important to the present day events, as Willie is looking for her father now-who is also a descendant of Marmaduke Temple!

message 5: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I think the author knows so much about the town and the sense of pride that comes with living there, that she personally couldn't have set it anywhere else. Like you said Nikki the town has got such a rich history it was the perfect place to base her story. I'm not really sure if the book would have changed if she'd called it Cooperstown.

message 6: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (last edited Jan 08, 2009 03:11AM) (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I'm loving the book. But sometimes I'm getting a little confused as to which family member each chapter is refering to. In chapter 20: 'noname', who is narrating?

My question for everyone is:

What did you think of the range of voices and time periods the author employs in The Monsters of Templeton? How would the novel have been different had the story been told from a single point of view, or been set in one era?

message 7: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (nikkibfabulous) It does get a little confusing, I kept going back trying to figure out who the characters were and where they fit. (The references to family tree help a lot.) Who 'noname' is will become clearer later...she is an important character. I don't want to give it away. :-)

I think the range of voices and time periods made the story a little more interesting. I don't think the author could have achieve the same effect if the story was told from a single point of view. I think the different eras were also necessary to the same effect. I must mention I think the author did a great job making the voices distinct, and believable.

message 8: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Just finished the book. And your right it did become clearer! I agree that the range of voices and time periods made the big more interesting. I don't actually think it would have worked any other way. I definately agree that each character was distinct and believeable, she did a very good job!

message 9: by Heather (new)

Heather (hpduck) | 354 comments I also thought that she did an incredible job with the way that she wrote each character. When I read Remarkable Prettybone's chapter, I could really hear her older, prim voice and irish lilt in my head.

I did have slight issues with the lavendar ghost. I'm not sure why though. I couldn't figure out who the ghost was supposed to be. Guvnor perhaps? or Hetty? Was anyone able to figure that out? Or am I just missing something.

love love love the baby Glimmy though. So cute. I also thought the epilogue that shows that momma/papa Glimmy was the one who put the bodies side by side just so s/he could look at them. For some reason, that just struck me as interesting and kind of sad.

message 10: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (nikkibfabulous) I thought maybe it was Guvnor. His note was what helped Willie solve the mystery of who her father was. And it had to be someone obsessed with cleanliness (p. 306).

message 11: by Heather (new)

Heather (hpduck) | 354 comments right, but how do we know that Guvnor is the one who is obsessed with cleanliness? It's sort of a moot point, but I still am just curious about who the ghost is.

message 12: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Willie thought it was Hetty didn't she, which would make the obsessive cleanliness make sense? I get confused about who originally lived in that house, is it where Hetty was a slave?

message 13: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (nikkibfabulous) Averell Cottage was Hetty's after she married Jedidiah Averell. It makes the most sense for it to have been Hetty...she was obsessed with cleanliness and it was her house. (I thought maybe Guvnor because of the note and if his mom was obsessed with cleanliness he could have been, too. But that is a bit of a stretch.)

message 14: by Kipahni (new)

Kipahni | 144 comments I thought the ghost was Hetty.

I don't think that the book would have been as enjoyable if it didn't have the multi-first person narrative and all the historical chapters just give depth to the present day charaters. Is it just me or did anyone else notice that Willie's family has a lot of semi-crazy relatives?

message 15: by Heather (new)

Heather (hpduck) | 354 comments After giving it a bit of thought, I think the folks who thought it was Hetty were right.

Kipahni, I have to agree with you. They all seemed quite a bit nutso.

message 16: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments As we're talking about the ghosts in the novel I thought I'd throw this one at you!

In what instances do ghosts make appearances in The Monsters of Templeton? What do the ghosts represent? What other symbols does the author employ in the novel? What do they mean?

message 17: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Good thinking Kate! I'm not very good at reading into underlying meanings and symbolism. Do you think the ghosts were real? Or the characters' imagination?

message 18: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (nikkibfabulous) Kate, great insight! I hadn't thought about that. Now, that you mention it, it does make a lot of sense to look at it that way. It would also make sense that we don't quite know who the ghost is if it was a figment of Willie's imagination. ...although, I sticking with Hetty. :-)

message 19: by Jo (new)

Jo (Jo_Wales) | 62 comments I'm just under halfway through the book and I have tried not to look too closely at the discussion as it contains spoilers. I'm enjoying it but like Nikki said, I have to keep looking to work out the relationship between the characters. Perhap I am trying too hard! I still haven't worked out the importance of the Monster in the Lake fact, there is a lot I haven't worked out but loving the book.

message 20: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 61 comments I just finished the book, and I'm glad to say I enjoyed it. I was afraid, that with all the hype about it, that I would be disappointed. I enjoyed going through the layers of family history with Willie, trying to keep straight the relationships. It wasn't too surprising that Marmaduke was the biggest "monster" of all.

message 21: by Jenny, honorary mod - inactive (last edited Jan 26, 2009 04:13AM) (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Who do you think Groff was refering to when she named the book 'The Monsters of Templeton'? Marmaduke and Glimmey? or not Glimmey at all?

message 22: by Nikki (new)

Nikki (nikkibfabulous) I think both, but I also think she was referring metaphorically to those secrets you find about yourself and/or your past. Sometimes, they can be quite hard to deal with or bigger than life and seem "scary" like monsters. Good thing her "monsters" didn't turn out to be too bad. All's well, that ends well.

message 23: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  (readr4ever) | 61 comments Yes, Nikki, I agree that the "monsters" are the secrets that are carried around, buried, denied. I had been thinking about this after posting that I thought Marmaduke was the biggest "monster." I think that his secrets were the most destructive to people's lives. Although, it's interesting the good that resulted on down the line because of his baseness.

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