Saturday, October 1, 2011

Book Review: Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

Title: Birds of America
Author: Lorrie Moore
Enjoyment Rating: some stories were 10/10, others were 3/10, overall 7/10
Source: Ordered new from Amazon
Referral: My creative writing professor recommended one of the stories
Books I've read this year: 117

As I've loudly proclaimed since I started this blog, short stories are not my thing. I do not like to write them, I do not like to read them, I do not like them Sam I Am. And I've resisted all the "Try them, try them, and you may/Try them and you may I say." Well, this semester I've had no choice but to try them since I'm taking a fiction seminar where we read and write short stories exclusively.

What is it that I don't like, exactly? I guess it's that I don't feel like there's often resolution to a short story-- I feel like it's more a venue for experimentation on the part of the author, which is all fine and good for the author, but often has mixed results for the reader. Some short stories in a collection will be fantastic, but others don't seem to work at all. I also like the chance to spend several days with an interesting character, and short stories are over too soon to develop a real relationship. What can I say? I'm a monogamist.

So, kicking and screaming, I've been eating my green eggs and ham reading short stories. On the first day of class, my Amazon addiction kicked in (a subject for another post), and I bought two of the collections that included stories that professor recommended. The first was this Lorrie Moore collection, and I bought it on the basis of the story "People Like that are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onc." My professor introduced it in the context that it's a story where the author's life and her character's life are similar, so in a reader's mind it might blend some elements of fiction and nonfiction. For example, Moore was living in Madison, WI and had a child with kidney cancer, and her character is a writer living in Madison, and her story focuses on her son's kidney cancer. Furthermore, the character's husband tells her to take notes and write a story about the experience. It's a brilliant story, and I felt a strong emotional connection to the character, probably because of the things we went through with Isaac several years ago. Anyway, I'd buy the book again just on the basis of that story. The other stories are fairly typical for a short story collection-- some are awesome, others leave me scratching my head. But overall, I've discovered a voice I really like in Lorrie Moore, and I see myself in her characters, who are, in large part, overly educated Midwesterners. 

Now I need to go order some of her novels.

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