I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Lovely Visitors

Lovely Visitors

Kevin Stevens
Bark, by Lorrie Moore, Faber & Faber, 192 pp, £14.99, ISBN: 978-0571273904 Lorrie Moore’s fiction is full of heartbreak: dying children, parents killed in car crashes, mental illness, severed limbs, marriages that break hard and break again even harder. Her emotional landscapes are relentlessly bleak, and the moments of forgiveness and joy that occasionally illumine her narratives are not so much earned as bestowed, sparingly, by a harsh world. Yet Moore’s stories are consistently enlightening, her prose almost sensuously pleasurable. Her humour, sympathy and, most of all, her language lift us above the desperation of her characters. Even when confronting the most horrible of circumstances – as in the widely anthologised “People Like That Are the Only People Here”, her searing story of a mother (and fiction writer) whose one-year-old son gets cancer – Moore, like Beckett, finds comedy in the utter darkness, and uses the satirical richness of language as a way of navigating apparent meaninglessness and finding, if not solace, a way of framing and confronting tragedy. As the Paris Review puts it, she has a “remarkable ability to juggle everyday outrage and high tragedy with a hand so deft that her most poignant passages are often also the most hilarious”. By means of this linguistic balance of dark feeling and sharp humour she presents her readers with a vision of human vulnerability that is her great achievement. Bark is Moore’s first volume of short stories since Birds of America, her significant 1998 collection that won the Irish Times International Fiction prize and spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list – a rare achievement for a book of short fiction. Disappointingly thin, this new book contains eight pieces (one story for every two years!), half of which have already appeared in The New Yorker. The themes are familiar – the illusion of romance, the shock of self-recognition, the inexorable erosion of time. Moore’s characters have also kept pace with her years; the naive twentysomethings of her early stories have given way to the naive middle-aged, as apt as ever to make wrong choices and even more mired in relationships, familial and romantic, that are defined by guilt and antagonism. Her language remains wonderfully descriptive: “the hammered nickel of the moon gave off its murky shine”; “the air was filled with the old-silver-jewelry smell of oncoming rain”. And her rhetoric, though fully formed and recognisably distinct in her first published stories thirty years ago, continues…

Advertisement

booksupstairs.ie

Dublin’s Oldest Independent BookshopBooks delivered worldwide