Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Epigrams: Lorrie Moore, Birds of America (Short Story Collection)

My better half tells me this blog should have a consistently different theme every day, like Monday is poetry day; Tuesday, epigram day; and so on.  While I realize this isn't a bad idea, I'm also the kinda guy who wants to do what he wants to do (within appropriate reason, whatever that is), and right now I want to share some awesome epigrams by Lorrie Moore.  I wouldn't be able to do this without vetoing myself, so I'm willing to hear ideas about this.  Who's for saying that I should stick to some sort of system?  Who's for The Whatever?

And a little thing about short story writers: While novelists and screenwriters generally bring in the really huge bucks, the multi-million dollar deals, the quality of short story writers is sadly overlooked.  Bad novelists still rake it in, but short story writers don't have the luxury of being bad; they first have to get their stories published in places like The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Harper's, before they "collect" their stories into a book, and those places simply do not publish bad writing.  And in the short story, every word counts, so wordy writers like Stephen King would have a problem (and let's face it, he hasn't written consistently high-quality short stories in a long time now).  So go check out Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver and other short story collections; you will find some very high quality writing there.

And, by the way, Google Scholar has Lorrie Moore's Birds of America for free.  But, anyway, without further ado, here are a few of its gems:

This lunge at moral fastidiousness was something she'd noticed a lot in the people around here.  They were not good people.  They were not kind.  They played around and lied to their spouses.  But they recycled their newspapers!---"Community Life" p. 73

...She had lost her place, as in a book...One should live closer to where one's parents were buried.--ibid. p. 77.

..."The United States--how can you live in that country?" the man asked.  Agnes had shrugged.  "A lot of my stuff is there," she'd said, and it was then that she first felt all the dark love and shame that came from the pure accident of home, the deep and arbitrary place that happened to be yours.

Thank God, thank God, she was not her mother.

Over the years, she and Joe tried to have a baby, but one night at dinner, looking at each other in a lonely way over the meat loaf, they realized with shock that they probably never would.  Nonetheless, after six years, they still tried, vandalizing what romance was left in their marriage.---"Agnes of Iowa," pgs. 78-95

Holding fast to her little patch of marital ground, she'd watched as his lovers floated through like ballerinas...all of them sudden and fleeting, as if they were calendar girls ripped monthly by the same mysterious calendar-ripping wind that hurried time along in old movies...What did Ruth care now?  Those girls were over and gone.  The key to marriage, she concluded, was just not to take the thing too seriously.

The only way to know absolutely everything in life is via an autopsy.

In this way--a wedding of emotionally handicapped parking spaces...they'd managed to stay married.  He was not such a bad guy!--just a handsome country boy, disbelieving of his own luck, which came to him imperfectly but continually, like crackers from a cookie jar.

He looked crazy and ill--but with just a smidgen of charisma!

Every house is a grave, thought Ruth.

If she had to go on a diet with a fake woman's name on it, she would go on the Betty Crocker diet...

---"Real Estate," pgs. 177-211.

This is but a sample.  Short story writers are the true wordsmiths and artists.  No one gets rich just writing short stories.  Check out Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, too.


  1. Lorrie Moore and I went to the same university, although in different years. She spoke at my graduation! Nice to see her featured here.

  2. I love her writing. Very funny, yet sad, at the same time. She wrote the most depressing description of zoos I've ever seen. Unlike Alice Munro's epiphanies, which always happen right at the end, Moore's come anywhere in the story, and they often jump out at you, shocking you. Great writer!