Jul/Aug 2014  •   Reviews & Interviews

Bark: Stories

Review by Ann Skea

Bark: Stories.
Lorrie Moore.
Faber. 2014. 192 pp.
ISBN 978 0 571 27390 4.

Lorrie Moore has a sardonic wit and a deft ability to draw her characters by tapping into their thoughts and conversations. Under the lightness of humor, however, there are often dark, distressing situations: divorce, loneliness, world disasters, old age. Her attitude seems to be, if you don't laugh about life, you may not survive.

Ira, in the opening story, is a newly divorced Jew who begins a disturbed sort of relationship with another divorcee. His wry wit pervades his perceptions of life, but his meetings with Zora, always with her taciturn teenage son in tow, become decidedly odd.

Teenage Nickie's mum, on the other hand, is a wonderfully zany but normal, slightly puzzled, single parent. Her interaction with Nickie, she remarks at one point, "contained more sibling banter than it should have." Her response to Nicki's normal teenage outbursts is to disrobe, slowly, so that Nicky flees in disgust. And faith, she muses, was invented so that parents could "raise teenagers without dying." Moore has a sharp eye for the weirdness of society, and the country wedding Nickie and her mum attend is a rich source of humor. The gun-firing bikers who roar up in the middle of proceedings are just glorious icing on the comic cake.

Only one story left me baffled. It has a sort of existential madness and revolves around a weird visit by three women to the house of a newly dead friend, a ghostly re-appearance, and one woman's bizarre response to it all.

There are only eight stories in this book, but that is enough to show Moore's originality, her ability to see the absurdities beneath every-day situations, and her sharp skill at making us laugh in what is, too often, a frightening world.


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