The collection is vast - 37 stories, an average length of 28-30 pages a story - Lorrie Moore doesn't do many short short-stories, this will take a while to wade through and you have to like the genre, which I know many don't. But the thing about Lorrie Moore is how marvellously alive and buzzing her people are, even when they are like Boy 2, in Two Boys, mournful, serious, clinging - you see completely what Moore is doing. I must admit, I don't usually like stories where no one has a name - if you can't be bothered to name your protagonist how can his or her human properties resonate properly? In the better stories, names are given. A favourite for me was What You Want To Do Fine, which is about Quilty, a blind lawyer who falls in love with Mack, a young painter and decorator - their road trip across America is an absolute delight. Another favourite is People Like That Are The Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk (long, rather silly titles are maybe an affectation the reader could do without) is an immensely moving story about a child with leukaemia and his parents. Children feature more in the later stories and one can see the development of Moore's art take that turn, especially as the stories about children (and about parents remembering childhood) become a feature of her fine and delicately-strung sensibilities. There is some beautiful writing. This is from the above-mentioned Peed Onk:
"Pulling through is what people do around here. There is a kind of bravery in their lives that isn't bravery at all. It is automatic, unflinching, a mix of man and machine, consuming and unquestionable obligation meeting illness move for move in a giant even-steven game of chess - an unending round of something that looks like shadowboxing, though between love and death, which is the shadow?"
I love her writing unreservedly - yes, she sometimes over-reaches - but show me someone who is doing anything close to this deeply empathetic and honest exposure of the fine bones, the grit and gristle, of human existence in `the Land of the Free' today and I'll bow to your superior mental radar.