Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Moore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moore. Show all posts

16 November, 2014

Lorrie Moore, "Debarking"

Ira, just a few months divorced and the United States is embarking on an invasion of Iraq, is having a difficult time not succumbing to depression. He's somewhat estranged from his eight-year old daughter, Bekka. He starts dating a woman, Zora, who is a pediatrician and has unseemly, to say the least, attachment to her teenage son, Bruno. The Iraq invasion is beginning; the government tells people to duct tape plastic over their windows; Ira is Jewish but among Gentiles. He feels guilty and sad and lost and desperate and has no confidence in his own judgements, except once, he tells Mike that Zora is not mentally stable. There are many cultural references: The Magic Flute, Christian and Jewish holidays and rituals, American politicians,  Flowers for Algernon, James Galway, Dow Jones Industrial Average, American hero actors and even I Love Lucy.

The title tells the whole story in one word, sort of. Ira is trying to debark his old life, then he has to try to debark from Zora and at one point his ex-wife said that he barked at people and "was something he was trying to work on." The world is not making sense to Ira at this point in his life and even though his relationship with his daughter, Bekka, is not great, it's the best thing going in his life and he does try to make his relationship better.

The story is told in 3rd-person POV and is over forty pages long. It's a close 3rd-person POV as I didn't detect any shifts in point of view. "Debarking" is the first story in Moore's collection of the same name published in 2014 and was first published in the New Yorker magazine in December 2003, several months after the US invaded Iraq.

Favorite Lines:
"Or rather, he could, sort of, since she often acted like one already, full of rage at the incompetent waitstaff that life had hired to take and bring her order."

"Merlot was beginning to etch a ragged, scabby line in the dead skin of her bottom lip."

"Sometimes Bekka seemed completely banal to him."

"She turned and fixed him with a smile, repaired him with it."

"I would never time-travel without a pen."

"Somebody slap that guy."

Three Guys One Book web page / review
full text of story from The New Yorker
National Public Radio web page, review

27 July, 2014

Lorrie Moore, "Wings"

"Wings" clocks in at 30 pages and is told in the 3rd person point of view. KC and Dench are unsuccessful musicians. She is a singer/song writer and piano player. He, Dench or D. Encher, tries to do a bit of everything. He is a player and we feel he's never completely forthcoming about much of anything. When we enter the story, they are living in a sublet far above their usual means and she begins a friendly relationship with an old man, Milt, in the neighborhood. KC eventually inherits Milt's house and turns it into a place of respite for families of ill children who are in the nearby hospital.

One of my favorite passages. "Walking the dog, she once watched as an excavator's mandibles head was released and fell to the ground; the headless neck then leaned down and began to nudge it, as if trying to find out whether it might still be alive."

Another favorite passage. "'I'm starting to lose confidence in you, Dench.' Losing confidence was more violent than losing love. Losing love was a slow dying, but losing confidence was a quick coup, a floor that opened right up and swallowed."

And, "He ate his chicken--the wings and the drumsticks, the arms and the legs--clean down to their purple bones."

Wings and birds and chickens are mentioned several times throughout the story. I never really got a good handle on what I felt was the theme.

"Wings" was first published in The Paris Review and then included in the Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses.

05 June, 2014

Lorrie Moore, "Foes"

The first reading of "Foes" came across, to me, as a diatribe. With the second reading, it read like a story about politics and hypocrisy. I found quite a few things I liked about it. Baker McKurty and his wife, Suzy, feel compelled to attend a Washington, D.C. literary fund raiser held in a defunct bank building that now sells gourmet foods through the teller windows. Bake, his nickname that I kept reading it as half-baked, as in his arguments were half-baked. He'd made the mistake his wife warned him of talking politics to the woman seated next to him at the fund raiser. He'd been invited only because he'd published an unsuccessful book about George Washington.

"Foes" was published on the eve of the 2008 presidential election. The woman seated next to Bake was in the Pentagon on September 11th. She was burned horribly and Bake first criticizes her silently for having had bad plastic surgery until he finds out that she was a burn victim.

"Foes" is included in Lorrie Moore's collection Bark published this year.

"Hedge funds and haiku!"

"The hustle for money met the hustle for virtue..."

"So what if this were a mausoleum of greed now danced in by all?"

"They were doing something that was more of a stiff list, a drift and sway."

"His penis now sat soft as a shrinking peach in his pants."

Wikipedia page for Lorrie Moore

30 March, 2014

Lorrie Moore, "Referential"

"Referential" is Lorrie Moore's rewriting or response to Vladimir Nabokov's "Signs and Symbols." Nabokov's was published in the New Yorker in 1948 but under the title, "Symbols and Signs."

My favorite part of Moore's story: "All this had to be accepted. Living did not mean one joy piled upon another. It was merely the hope for less pain, hope played like a playing card upon another hope, a wish for kindnesses and mercies to emerge like kings and queens in an unexpected twist in the game."

And in the Nabokov story, the corresponding: "All this, and much more, she had accepted, for, after all, living does mean accepting the loss of one joy after another, not even joys in her case, mere possibilities of improvement. She thought of the recurrent waves of pain that for some reason or other she and her husband had had to endure…"

The son living in a psychiatric hospital suffers from "referential mania" in which the he thinks that everything refers in one way or another to him. However, in neither story do we see the son. His situation and condition is given solely through telling. A case could probably be made that the son doesn't even exist, the ultimate referential mania, a mentally ill son, of the parents? And, Moore's referring to Nabokov, and responding in kind with her version of his story, referential mania?

Lorrie Moore's "Referential" was first published in The New Yorker and was selected for inclusion in the 2013 The Best American Short Stories.

24 June, 2012

Lorrie Moore, "Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People"

Since publication in The New Yorker in November 1993, Moore's story, "Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People," has become famous. Abby has been reassigned from her current task of writing college entrance test questions to public speaking to high school teachers and students. Somewhat bewildered, she decides she needs to kiss the Blarney Stone, gain the gift of gab, and her mother ends up going with her to Ireland because "Abby had never learned to drive one." (a stick shift) Abby's mother works at a flashlight company and serves as a metaphor for shining light onto Abby's issues, one of which is that she is rarely happy and doesn't seem to know what she wants. She likes being alone working out her test analogies. Her mother is as "strong as a brick" but with a "sigh of death."

At one point when Abby is trying to back out of kissing the stone, her mother goads her into it. "Don't be a ninny." This makes Abby bitter and impulsive instead of instilling any sort of bravery. Abby finally throws herself down and attempts to get it over with although she ends up just throwing a kiss. Abby's mother tried also and this was the first time Abby saw terror in her mother. " was a ruse, all her formidable display." Abby is able by the end of the story to use words publicly. Or, at least she thinks she will be able.

This story is included in a great collection of 19 stories edited by Larry Dark, The Literary Traveler: An Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. And, the story was also published in Moore's collection, Birds of America in 1998.

Favorite Lines/Phrases:
"...and how he hadn't even placed enough pressure on the doorbell to make it ring..."

"There was nothing as complex in the world--no flower or stone--as a single 'hello' from a human being." [for me, this is precisely why fiction is so important]

"...reunited in a wheeled metal womb..."

"You I liked. You I could leave alone."

Larry Dark's web page, The Story Prize
Larry Dark's blog
Wikipedia site about Lorrie Moore
A great long interview, 2001, with The Paris Review
an abstract to Lorrie Moore's story at The New Yorker

18 October, 2009

Lorrie Moore, interview

Read an interview with Lorrie Moore in the current edition of Tin House.

Yesterday, went to see the Susan Rothenberg painting exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art of Fort Worth.

30 August, 2009

Lorrie Moore, profile and "Speaking of Torture" in PEN/America

Just read an essay, "Speaking of Torture" in the PEN/America Vol. 10. It raises interesting issues of language and the changes in its use by the Bush administration.

Read interview with Lorrie Moore (profile on Ploughshares' page) on the Narrative Magazine web page. The article is $3 or a person can donate and have VIP access to special interviews, articles, stories, etc. It's also an opportunity to support an online journal of the highest quality. Most of the magazine is free.

22 August, 2009

Lorrie Moore, "Agnes of Iowa"

Read Lorrie Moore's short story, "Agnes of Iowa." It is included in her book, Birds of America.
In it a homely woman, moves home to Iowa from a stint in NYC, marries a man twelve years
her senior, and teaches a Great Books course. When a visiting poet reveals that his book is
dedicated to his deceased son, she realizes she's misjudged him and longs for intensity in her
surroundings and her marriage.

Worked on "Woodie Hart" for about 3 hours. I think I may be onto something again with it.
Including the kitchen sink is not only not helping the story, it is a distraction.