He was joking; he believed what he was saying. He thought of how the world without humans would be more brilliant, greener, teeming with strange life, rats with opposable thumbs, monkeys in spectacles, mutant fish building palaces below the sea. How, in the grand scheme of things, it would be better without human witness anyway. He thought of his mother’s young face flickering in candlelight, in revelation. “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration,” Lotto whispered, and his friends looked at him, saw something terrible, looked away.

  • From Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

“Breathe,” Lotto said softly into his wife’s hair. Rachel blinked in the tree’s gleam. Sallie had been speaking hard truths, he knew. It had become evident over the past year that he could no longer count on his charm, which had faded; he tested it again and again on coffee baristas and audition gauntlets and people reading in the subway, but beyond the leeway given to any moderately attractive young man, he didn’t have it anymore. People could look away from him these days. For so long, he had thought it was just a switch he could flick. But he had lost it, his mojo, his juju, his radiance. Gone, the easy words. He could not remember a night when he didn’t fall asleep drunk.

  • From Fates and Furies, by Lauren Groff

The apartment, the way Lotto and Mathilde floated on their own current. The balls it took to proclaim a creative profession, the narcissism. Natalie had once wanted to be a sculptor and was pretty damn good at it. She’d welded a nine-foot stainless-steel DNA helix that sat in the science wing of her high school.

She’d dreamt of building gigantic moving structures like gyroscopes and pinwheels, spun only by the wind. But her parents were right about getting a job. She studied economics and Spanish at Vassar, which was only logical, and yet she had to rent someone’s mothball-smelling closet in Queens until her internship ended. She had a hole in her one pair of high-heeled shoes, which she had to fix every night with superglue. Grinding, this life.

Not what she had been promised. It was explicit in the brochures she’d looked at like porn in her suburban bed when she was applying: you get to Vassar, those laughing, beautiful kids promised, you live a gilded life. Instead, this dingy apartment with its bad beer was as high a life as she was going to live anytime soon.

  • From Fates and Furies, by Lauren  Groff