An exemplar of the modern short story writes about her troubled mother and complicated relationships with men.
Lorrie Moore is an American novelist and essayist. She is best known for her short stories. Self Help was her first collection, published in 1985.
In the nine stories presented here, Moore addresses personal themes. There are bad relationships, marriages on the rocks and affairs with married men. Several stories deal with the main character's mother, coping with cancer diagnosis and mental illness. It seems pretty clear that Moore must have had a difficult relationship with her mother, as long suffering mothers are returned to again and again. One tongue-in-cheek story, “How to Become a Writer”, is full of sardonic advice on how to succeed in a literary career.
The tone of Lorrie Moore's stories is often witty and droll, with plenty of clever wordplay. They are also ironic and self-conscious, almost self-referential as the text gives itself directions on what to do and think, almost like an emotional laundry list. For example:
Ask Hilda if she will go to lunch with you. Over Reuben sandwiches ask her if she's ever had an affair with a married man. As she attempts, mid bite, to complete the choreography of her chomp, Russian dressing spurts out onto her hand.
Moore's short fictions are modernist in style, fractured and leaning heavily on one perspective, that of the female writer. They jerkily jump back and forth in time (one story paces back, year by year in a descending chronology, producing a wonderfully discombobulating effect), eschewing a linear narrative. These are stories in which you have to trust the direction the writer is taking you in.
Unusual yet entertaining, the short stories of Lorrie Moore offer a unique experience and perspective.
Self-Help, by Lorrie Moore. Published by Faber. $22.99
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books