Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Lost Classics: Lorrie Moore's Anagrams

Whenever I can't finish a book (yeah, I mean you, Chabon), I turn to Lorrie Moore for a rejuvenating literary respite. In my head, Moore is the authorial equivalent of the brilliantly funny best friend you want to go drinking with every night of the week. She's probably known best for her last short story collection, Birds of America, published nine ridiculously long years ago, or her debut collection, Self-Help, which was written all in second person and launched a thousand MFA-wantin' copycats. I contend, however, with all due vim and vigor that her finest work is Anagrams, an unusual novel that tells the story of Gerard and Benna and the myriad ways their lives could have been lived. Anagrams is realy a series of short stories and one novella all patched together, although the more times you read it (and I will freely admit that I've read it roughly a dozen times at this point), the more you see deep connections running throughout the book.

So even if the structure of Anagrams is kind of the short story writer's equivalent of cheating their way into a novel, it still works and even if it didn't, it simply doesn't matter because of the effortless humor and humanity found in every inch of Moore's prose. You've got to love a woman who starts a short story with the words: Understand your cat is a whore and can't help you. That, right there, should earn a person a Nobel Prize.

Rumor has it that Moore is working on a novel. Many years ago, I saw her read and she gave us a taste of the work in progress. I still remember it because it seemed like the perfect next step in the evolution of a truly gifted author: more rounded characters, same gentle humor, richer details building a scene from top to bottom. I've been waiting and waiting for this new novel to the point where I'm half convinced I imagined every word of it. (Which, if I did, I'm a totally brilliant writer and should have an agent.) Once you read Anagrams or Self-Help or Birds of America or any of Moore's other work, you'll be just as desperate as I am to read the next chapter of anything this woman writes.


annie said...

first i was miffed that there's no amazon link that will let me order the collected works, but after clicking the clickable, I'm just annoyed that i've found a new literary role model.

Steve B said...

She was great in The Forgotten. Not so good in Hannibal.

Liz said...

She's quite the renaissance woman, isn't she? :-)