Flower Hunters by Lauren Groff, 2016
The magic trick:
Exploring the idea of human vs. animal, sexual vs. erotic
“Flower Hunters” is a slow, sparse story about the end of a friendship and the resulting loneliness in its void. I had a hard time finding my footing in this one until a section of the text quite eloquently shows the protagonist stopping to feel a bit of rainwater trickle down her body. She defines the sensation as erotic as opposed to sexual. It’s an animal pleasure as compared to the more society-driven human pleasures that have been alienating her of late.
This is an interesting truth to ponder. And when you have a quiet narrative that has little plot as this story does (not a criticism), it’s these interesting truths that make the read worthwhile. And that’s quite a trick on Groff’s part.
She becomes aware of a stream of water licking its way down the end of her hair and into the collar of her slicker, and then slipping coolly across the bare skin of her left shoulder and then over her left breast and across her lower left rib cage and entering her navel and unfurling itself luxuriously over her right hip.
It feels remarkable, like a good cold blade across her skin.
It is erotic, she thinks; not the same thing as sexual.
Erotic is suckling her newborns, that animal smell and feel and warmth and tenderness.
Laying her head on her friend’s shoulder and smelling the soap on her skin.
Letting the sun slide over her face without worrying about cancer or the ice caps melting.
She thinks of Bartram in the deep semitropical forest, far from his wife, aroused by the sight of an evocative blue flower that exists as a weed in her own garden, writing, in what is surely a double-entendre, or, if not, deeply Freudian: How fantastical looks the libertine Clitoria, mantling the shrubs, on the vistas skirting the groves!
This, this is what she loves in Bartram so much!
The way he lets himself be full animal, a sensualist, the way he finds glory in the body’s hungers and delights.
Florida, Bartram’s ghost has been trying to tell her all along, is erotic.
For years now she has been unable to see it all around her, the erotic.
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