Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On "Birds of America" by Lorrie Moore ***

The three strongest stories in this collection came at its start and its end, which I suppose is the way one wants to set up any given collection: get people interested and leave them wanting more. In between, I'm astounded by the writing itself but often left wondering, shortly thereafter, what the story was about. In other words, many of the stories ran in together for me, much as they do in, say, a Bobbie Anne Mason collection. But the opening story, "Willing," about a washed-up actress back in her hometown dating a mechanic, "lowering" herself, is a great opening indeed. And in the second to last story, "People Like That Are the Only People Here," Moore manages to convey all the angst that parents of a cancer baby must feel in a manner that is almost exhaltant even in its grief. Passages, there, shine like the best of Joan Didion. Finally, in the last story, "Terrific Mother," readers are treated to watching a woman who accidentally kills a baby (how can one even imagine what something so horrifying would feel like?) come slowly back to her life, which, I suppose, is a motif that runs through many of the stories here.

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