I love reading debut fiction, but it has a huge downside. The waiting. Anyone who’s ever been near me in a restaurant, or on a sidewalk, or on Christmas Eve knows that patience is not one of my virtues. So let’s say I discover a new writer. What’s next? I have to hang around until they get off their asses and write me a new book.
But when you discover a veteran writer who you just happen to have never read before, you know that you have hours of reading pleasure at your eyeballtips. It’s like the thrill of embarking on a TV show when it’s already conveniently in box set form.
This is what’s happened with me and Lorrie Moore. I explained earlier this year that I had a notion I’d like her even though I wasn’t sure why. And I was right. For one thing, I’m really feeling the whole format switch. It’s been way too long since I enjoyed the company of a perfectly crafted short story, and I love that I only need to devote ten minutes to reading one before bed.
However, I’ve decided to savour these stories for as long as I can, rather than read them all at once. I think a couple here and there will go nicely with the longer-form fiction I usually read. Plus, I don’t want to lose the magic. Reading Sam Jordison’s critical look at the collection makes me scared that if I take in all these stories at once, her wit will start to lose its spark and her clever similes will begin to grate. For now though, I can appreciate the way Moore compares a thatched roof to Cleopatra’s bangs, or slowly skewers a character named Zora for being criminally unfunny in every scene: ‘Later in the evening, she’d said, “Watch this,” and she’d taken her collapsible umbrella, placed its handle on the crotch of her pants, then pressed the button that sent it rocketing out, unfurled, like a cartoon erection.’
Moore’s themes already seem repetitive (ok, I am getting a little bummed out by all the divorce talk), and her default narrative voice is slightly neurotic, but these traits work together to paint pictures of characters that I actually believe. Annoying, insecure, sometimes hilarious characters.