marginalia || Birds of America, by Lorrie Moore

I fell in love with Lorrie Moore when I found her short story “How to Be an Other Woman” in an anthology of love stories. There, by pure accident (I was scouring the library shelves, just because), I fell in love. She just blew me away—her language, her quirkiness, her ability to sucker-punch your right between the eyes.

And so it was a pleasure when mah homey Petra let me take this book home with me (originally Sir Larry‘s, hello!) Birds of America is a collection of twelve stories from Miss Moore, and the stories were good. They were. But were they yummy?—

It pains me to say that these stories, though masterful, did not fascinate me the way her stories in Self-Help did. Yes, I recognize how well-written the stories are, how precise Moore’s observations can be, how she has retained her ability to charge a single phrase with so much meaning. The stories in this collection are great stories, created by a writer who knows her way around the craft, has mastered it.

But these stories, they aren’t magical—not for me. I was not compelled to go on a little walk (cigarettes in my pocket, a boatload of heartache as well) after every story. I was not compelled to sigh at the general direction of walls. I was not compelled to run to the nearest scrap of paper and emulate. Kids, I did not gasp. Not once.

But yes—yadda yadda—these stories were written by a master. The craft was flawless. And I’m not even saying these stories didn’t have heart. Because they did. Not just the kind of heart that spoke to mine—these are stories you let a Creative Writing major read, not the kind she has to discover on her own, those stories that spark that Ooh writing is the shiz inside her. Am I making sense?

Well. Which is not to say that I hated this boo. I mean, I like it enough. I like it very much. Sigh. You can’t deny that these are kick-ass stories, ya know?

One of the stories I like best is “Charades”—it’s a night with a family, and this family happens to be playing that most scorned of parlor games. Testament to Lorrie Moore’s genius is how she’s able to create a story about what an awkward little monster a game of charades can be. And, at the same time, display all those undercurrents working within a family? Champion.

Of course, I suspect that given time to soak in, I’ll have other stories “I like best.” I give this new collection—and the author—that: it’s all so very bothersome in oh-so-many levels.

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