When I first
read Lorrie Moore, I was in college, taking my first fiction writing seminar.
We were assigned to read short stories from an anthology of the greatest short
stories. I'd found most great writers to be those who were already dead, or
near death, or at least assigned to death; but there was Lorrie Moore's story,
stuck with assurance among Hemingway and Rushdie. I had no idea who she was;
her name was so plain. The story was "Go Like This."
It was the story of a woman, stricken by cancer, who contrives to end it all
with the consent of her husband and her doctor. An interesting presumption,
to be sure. But the plot became the least of your worries. What's astonishing
is not the plot, but Moore's ability to be blunt: She does not use the plot
to expose the fear of terminal illness, and one's triumph over it; instead
it's the resignation to it and the failure inherent. It's about giving up.
It's about the day you say fuck it, what's the point anyway.
That's a common theme to her work, told with a dark, dark humor that punches
you in a way that means exactly what it says. Is there's one thing about her
work, it's the realness of it. We are abandoned by lovers and faith and for
Moore, that sucks and that's all there is to it. Life goes on, or it doesn't.
And her characters deal with it the way people actually do: hour by hour,
day by day, with the knowledge that a revelation isn't coming. Time passes
with a drink in its hand.
If you enjoy reading work of a singular cynicism and wit, and moving pictures
of everyday life, you will enjoy Moore's work. She is enormously talented,
if not a bit sad. A better short story writer than a novelist, truth be told,
but her longer works, all two of them, are still very good. Following your
moody read, if you wish to ease the emotional burden of her work but keep
up the same tone, you will most certainly enjoy essays by Samuel Johnson,
very witty and sarcastic and all-around smart dead guy. You may also enjoy
Edith Wharton, whose ambivalence toward her characters implies a sarcasm that's
seen, but not said. Also Jeanette Winterson, perhaps; maybe Jonathan Swift.