These stories are all gently derisive of the "How To" genre, all being missives of defeat, in the game of life. They have the deft, impassioned wit of the desperate lives of their subjects, but they are also beautiful and full of soul. It may be the flattened, harmed soul of the typical American urgently going nowhere, but going anyway. I found them moving, sad, and yes, okay, often depressing. But no one writes with more bite and anger than Lorrie Moore. Always honest, even about not being honest, these are terrible tales for our times.
The titles of the stories give their flavour - a first blow, if you like, as to what you will have to deal with here. "How To Be An Other Woman"; "What Is Seized," "The Kid's Guide To Divorce." "How" is a relationship in aspic:
"Begin by meeting him in a class, in a bar, at a rummage sale. Maybe he teaches sixth grade. Manages a hardware store. Foreman at a carton factory. He will be a good dancer. He will have perfectly cut hair. He will laugh at your jokes.
"A week, a month, a year. Feel discovered, comforted, needed, loved, and start sometimes, somehow, to feel bored. When sad and confused, walk uptown to the movies. Buy popcorn. These things come and go. A week, a month, a year."
You know without knowing that sooner or later, this will end.
"Go Like This" is a lesson in how to choose the moment of your own death.
"How To Talk To Your Mother (Notes)" is a story told in reverse about a woman and her mother and shows how people grow from dependence, to independence and then back to dependence. There is more here than we can tolerate in large amounts. It could be very depressing, especially if you are already slightly depressed, as we all are from time to time. If so, best save this collection for a time when you feel strong, when your life is going right for you. Why let yourself be told things that are too hard to bear when you defences are down?