Reviews > Published on February 26th, 2014

Bookshots: 'Bark': Stories by Lorrie Moore

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Bark: Stories

Who wrote it?

Taken as a whole...'Bark' seems to lack the chutzpah and hope-in-the-face-of-hopelessness that characterizes so much of Moore’s earlier stuff.

Lorrie Moore, bestselling and widely anthologized author, has returned with her first collection of short stories in 15 years.

Plot in a Box:

Love, loss and middle-age in the Midwest.

Invent a new title for this book:

Thank You for Having Me (The title of the last, most light-hearted story in the book.)

Read this if you liked:

The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore, And Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes

Meet the book’s lead:

KC, a flailing rock singer who has a dog named Cat and her eye on a wealthy—and dying—neighbor.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by: 

Chloe Sevigny, because she looks like she could pull off playing a rocker who has tattoos of every city where she was booed off stage.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Moore's Midwest is a world of peaceful neighborhoods and not-so-quiet desperation. I mean, I'm sure it's a nice place to visit...

 What was your favorite sentence?

...unless you see the head crowning, never look at a woman's stomach and ask if she's pregnant.

The Verdict:

One of the biggest pitfalls for Great Writers is that their fans come to have Great Expectations. Devotees don't exactly wait around for a new release in tattered wedding gowns, but they do hope each new work will remind them of why they fell in love with the author in the first place. For me, Bark had whispers of Moore's witty pathos-infused voice and flashes of brilliance. But these moments seemed to highlight what this collection of short stories lacked.

A common theme running through Bark is love, or rather, its decline and fall. In "Debarked", a recently divorced man embarks on a desperate affair with a woman whose interest is already taken. "Paper Losses” follows a mother trying to make sense of her dead marriage during one final family vacation with the kids. In “Juniper Tree”, a woman goes on a date with her dying friend’s ex, only to be invited to the most uncomfortable wake ever.

Many of these stories were released earlier, in publications such as the New Yorker, and it’s easy to tell the dates of their release by the many political and pop culture references throughout. Protagonists wrestle with the start of the Iraq War and the existence of Abu Ghraib, as well as reality shows and something one of the characters calls “Spacebook”.  While many of these references must have worked at the time, they often give the book as it is now a dated, over-earnest feel. Likewise, the stories may have read as subtly poignant separately. Taken as a whole, however, Bark seems to lack the chutzpah and hope-in-the-face-of-hopelessness that characterizes so much of Moore’s earlier stuff.

Sometimes, Bark works. Social awkwardness is shrewdly observed:

He did not like stressful moments in restaurants. They caused his mind to wander strangely to random thoughts like Why are these things called napkins rather than lapkins? and I’ll bet God really loves butter.

Two stories: “Foes” and “Thank You for Having Me” stand out for their sprightly dialogue and likeable characters making the best of an increasingly confusing world.

At only 135 pages, Bark is a quick and often enjoyable read. However to me, most of the stories in Bark just don’t have the bite of stories like “And You’re Ugly Too” and “Terrific Mother”—timeless, hilarious tales that left us wanting to read “Moore”.

About the author

Naturi is the author of How to Die in Paris: A Memoir (2011, Seal Press/Perseus Books) She's published fiction, non-fiction and poetry in magazines such as Barrow St. and Children, Churches and Daddies. At Sherri Rosen Publicity Int'l, she works as an editor and book doctor. Originally from NYC, she now lives in a village in England which appears to have more sheep than people. This will make starting a book club slightly challenging.

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