A reminder from Lorrie Moore: YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT
You have to be willing to have only a few friends, Lorrie Moore said. Writers, if they are honest with themselves, cannot worry about offending or how many allies they have acquired in this world. It's an obnoxious position, hard to defend. But they do not work for the Chamber of Commerce; they are not examples to the community. They are there for their story, and if it sounds harsh...
She said this nicely.
We got on the subject because I mentioned she is one of those writers from whom readers take cues on how to live, and how not to.
"I hope not," she said.
Then she considered the point a moment -- a point that John Cheever and Raymond Carver and Alice Munro and the other short story masters she is routinely lumped in with have all heard -- and she said, somewhat coyly, "I always thought people read for company."
— Christopher Borelli
From Lorrie Moore's Anagrams:
"You cannot be grateful without possessing a past. That is why children are incapable of gratitude and why night prayers and dinner graces are lost on them. "Gobbles Mommy, Gobbles Grandpa..." George races through it. She has no reference points. As I get older the past widens and accumulates, all sloppy landlessness like a river, and as a result I have more clearly demarcated areas of gratitude. Things like ice cream or scenery or one good kiss become objects of a huge soulful thanks. Nothing is gobbled. This is a sign of getting old."
Nothing is gobbled. Everything is precious and finite, and fleeting. In other words: they may be screwballs, but they're mine.
What makes humans human is precisely that they do not know the future. That is why they do the fateful and amusing things they do: who can say how anything will turn out? Therein lies the only hope for redemption, discovery, and—let’s be frank—fun, fun, fun! There will be things people will get away with. And not just motel towels. There might be great illicit loves, enduring joy, faith-shaking accidents with farm machinery. But you have to not know in order to see what stories your life’s efforts bring you. The mystery is all.
+ see also: Betsy Stewart, The Last Book I Loved
My copy is well marked; the spine is cracked. Written on the title page is my name and "March 2006 / Oakbrook IL," which means I bought it at the Borders on 16th St., across from the mall, when I still lived in Chicago and Borders was still a thing. My favorite stories are "Real Estate" and "Charades" and "Dance in America" and "Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens." Of all the books I'd take with me to a desert island, this would be at the very top of the heap.
Where does one apply to be Lorrie Moore's Charlie McCarthy?
VIDICH: About your story “You’re Ugly, Too,” John Updike commented that your work expressed “the smoldering rage of the radically discontented female” and that the story held “worlds of conflicted contemporary female feelings.” Do you agree with him?
MOORE: From his point of view I imagine those seem apt descriptions. What would be the point of agreeing or disagreeing with an experience someone else is having?
There was a three-month period last fall (so I guess that would make it AUTUMN) when I read through Lorrie Moore's Anagrams once a week. I mean read the whole thing through. I couldn't get enough. I finally had to file it away in a different room, so it would stop staring at me, and daring me. Goddamn book. She writes total nutjob characters and yet you want to be them anyway, just to say she made you up.
There's a brief lull, an opportunity for someone to ask the Burning Question, the one that gets asked in one form or another at every literary event: Where do you get your ideas? Before it can happen, Moore looks up at the sky.
"There are bats up there," she says casually.
That's good, says Elissa Schappell, an editor at Tin House magazine. They eat mosquitoes.
"Yeah, the bat lobby wants you to believe that," Moore replies, not batting an eye.