Bark
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Bark

Lorrie Moore

In these eight masterful stories, Lorrie Moore, explores the passage of time, and summons up its inevitable sorrows and comic pitfalls. In ‘Debarking’, a newly divorced man tries to keep his wits about him as the US prepares to invade Iraq. In ‘Foes’, a political argument goes grotesquely awry as the events of 9/11 unexpectedly manifest at a fundraising dinner in Georgetown. In ‘The Juniper Tree’, a teacher, visited by the ghost of her recently deceased friend, is forced to sing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ in a kind of nightmare reunion. And in ‘Wings’, we watch the unraveling of two once-hopeful musicians, who neither held fast to their dreams, nor struck out along other paths. Gimlet-eyed social observation, the public and private absurdities of American life, dramatic irony, and enduring half-cracked love wend their way through each of these narratives, in Moore’s characteristic style that is always tender, never sentimental and often heartbreakingly funny.

Review

Lorrie Moore fans rejoice. Her first new collection of stories in 15 years is here and reading it will remind you of why you fell in love with her corrosive wit in the first place. Darker and more overtly political than Moore’s much-celebrated Birds of America, this slim volume prickles and crackles with the cruelty inspired by strained relationships: a mother attempts to navigate life and romance with a mentally ill son; a wife receives notification of her divorce in the mail while still living with her husband; a casual meeting at a dinner party turns ugly when the upcoming election is mentioned. Yet, in typical Moore fashion, even as these encounters leave you heart-stricken you’ll inevitably find yourself smiling.

Moore’s use of humour is underhanded, her ‘jokes’ sneaking up on you in clever, unexpected ways: ‘Although Kit and Rafe had met in the peace movement, marching, organizing, making no-nukes signs, now they wanted to kill each other. They had become, also, a little pro-nuke.’ The final story of the collection, ‘Thank You for Having Me’, is brilliantly funny. A mother and daughter attend a very strange wedding that is gatecrashed by a bikie gang who’ve reportedly eaten ‘a hell of a lot of Twinkies’. I have a real soft spot for Moore’s narrators and this collection proves no exception. In ‘Thank You for Having Me’, the mother’s attitude toward her teenage daughter is a delight – long-suffering and fearful, tender and awe-struck – and Moore’s tactics for dealing with their difficult, yet loving, relationship are hilarious.

These depictions of relationships – between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, old friends – and the problems that arise is also what lay at the heart of Birds of America and it’s easy to see how Bark will fit within the context of Moore’s work. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 15 years for the follow-up.


Bronte Coates is the Online & Readings Monthly Assistant. She is a co-founder of literary project, Stilts.

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