Saturday, June 28, 2014

Discovering Lorrie Moore

The writer Lorrie Moore has of course long been "discovered" by many readers, just somehow not here.  I am now reading her seminal highly acclaimed 1998 book of short stories "Birds of America".  The stories just naturally attract my complete attention.  There are occasional sentences of observations that are just so naturally logical and meaningful that they stop me in my tracks.  That, however, is not the hook or even the intent of her stories.  They have an impact in their entirety, one that evokes thoughts about normal human behavior, or maybe the fact that the thought that there is such a thing as normal human behavior is a corrosive way of thinking.

Moore came to my attention as she was mentioned a number of times in a book of essays by Geoff Dyer that was read here earlier this year.  Since most of the short stories in "Birds of America" were originally published in "The New Yorker", which I have subscribed to for at least 35 years, it can seem like a mystery that her name is new to me.  There is no mystery really.  In the 1990's and early 2000's  I generally worked 10 to 12 hours a day, not including commuting time.  In times when confidential mergers or acquisitions were being discussed, some major ones being consummated, my hours were longer than that and included weekends. With children that delighted me when at home and wasn't working, there is a gap in my reading and watching films during that period that will likely never be filled.  I don't care so much about the films, but books I do and finding Lorrie Moore is just indicative of other written work that will eventually be found here, missed during that almost all consuming banking job time, much of which I really enjoyed, with its constant talking, writing, and public speaking.  It was not exactly a desk job.  I had a great little department of people that did that work.

Moore, now 57 years old, was a creative writing teacher at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for 30 years. In 2013 she moved to a similar position at Vanderbilt University.  She is not exactly a prolific writer.  She has written two novels and one, "Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?" received excellent reviews and some acclaim  while the second, "A Gate At The Stairs" also was reviewed positively by many publications, most notably with strong endorsements from the New York Times and the Washington Post.  She has written other stand alone notable short stories that were published in an anthology that now seems to be out of print, and has just published this year a new book of short stories, "Bark", which is in my pile of books to pick and choose from later.  "Bark" is generally seen as different from prior Moore books as some of the stories are "darker" and "grim" according to some critics.  I will soon have my own opinion.  Despite some mixed commentary, there have been many positive reviews and her humor is said to still remain intact, if less frequent.

Dyer's view of Moore is that she is an exceptional writer and he seems to feel that she has in her a book that could be stunningly better than anything that she has ever written.  Time will tell, but happy here with what's in my hands now.


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