New Love – The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore

25 Jun

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.


9 Responses to “New Love – The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore”

  1. savidgereads June 25, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    I have not long picked this up as the next collection of short stories to read. Mind you I havent finished Stories To Get You Through The Night yet but its one that I want to take very slowly indeed, so I could be reading it for years as its huge!

    • Lija June 26, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

      The stories themselves actually go pretty quickly. If I wasn’t trying to take breaks in between in purpose it probably wouldn’t be that hard to get through, actually!

  2. Rob June 26, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    This volume has been a constant companion for me for weeks now Lija, but I have to admit that I’ve given up on it. I had originally started reading it against William Trevor’s collected short stories in a quest to discover which of the two was more Chekhovian in his/her short story writing.

    For me Trevor is already winning that contest by a country mile, and reading Moore seems more of a chore to me than enjoyment. Why? Well I guess I’ve gone off Moore a bit, but not because of the quality of her writing. I think her themes are probably pitched more towards the female reader – all of that divorce talk can get a man down :) – and I want to move on to someone who I think with enthrall me as much as Trevor does, and that person is Raymond Carver.

    So good luck with Lorrie Moore Lija, I’m sure you’ll enjoy her a lot more than I did (although in retrospect I didn’t really dislike her all that much either).
    P.S. Having read a dozen or so Moore shorts, I think I can say from my position that you’re doing the right thing digesting her slowly.

    • Lija June 28, 2010 at 11:52 am #

      Thanks for your comments, Rob. So far, the divorce theme hasn’t particularly appealed to me either, so I don’t think that comes down to gender. I do appreciate her sharp sense of humour and her self-deprecating protagonists. I guess as I continue to make my way through the stories I’ll find out whether she’s got any other tricks up her sleeve.

  3. Sasha July 5, 2010 at 9:29 am #

    I saw this post and couldn’t stop a fist-pump into the air, haha. Yay, short fiction. Yay, Lorrie Moore. I love her. I love her to little bits and pieces. I am all too aware of her flaws, but a part of me remains incredibly loyal.

    I could read Self-Help over and over. Enjoy the rest of Moore!

    • Lija July 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm #

      Ooh – Self-Help is at the very end, so I still have that to look forward to. Which reminds me, I should make an effort to pause a bit in between “books,” just to get some perspective on how her writing evolved between them.

      • Sasha July 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

        Self-Help is actually her first published collection — straight from her thesis to the shelves. Odd that it’s at the very end, haha, since most “Collected Stories” do it chronologically.

      • Lija July 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

        Yeah, I think they’ve done it in reverse chronological order, with the completely new stories at the beginning (a few that hadn’t been published anywhere else yet), and her earliest stuff at the end.


  1. Perfect Passages - July 6, 2010

    […] me. I’m currently reading Lorrie Moore’s The Collected Stories (so’s my pal The Writer’s Pet), and hers is the kind of writing that exults in snappy, memorable […]

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