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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 21 June 2014
After the dismal showing on her last novel "The Gate at the Stairs", I was hesitant about picking up Moore's latest work. I am glad I did because not only did it feel like she has returned to form with this collection, but it also further confirmed for me that Moore's strength is in short stories (as previous glowing collections like "Birds of America" and "Self-Help" have proven). And there is no shame in that - just look at Nobel Prize winner, Alice Munro, who almost exclusively writes short fiction.

In these 8 stories, Moore examines moments in the lives of characters, who are as varied as the different junctures they are at in life. The stories are diverse, and often surprising, when a word, or a new situation in life presents the characters with decisions they have to make - and they don't always choose wisely. But that approximates life as we know it, in my opinion.

In the first and one of the longer stories in the collection, "Debarking", a new divorcee, Ira, tries to get a foot back in the dating game and lands up with an attractive, but possibly mentally unstable pediatrician Zora, who has a closer-than-comfortable relationship with her teenaged son. Against the background of America's impending war with Iraq, Ira rather self-indulgently imposes his personal issues on global matters, when he anguishes over his new relationship: "I would stop seeing her, but I don't seem to be able to. Especially now with all that's happening in the world. I can't live without some intimacy, companionship, whatever you want to call it, to face down this global craziness." Ira's best friend, Mike's advice is: "You shouldn't use people as human shields... Or - I don't know - maybe you should". While bitingly funny, Mike's uncertainty of the right/wrongness of narcissism is symptomatic of the kind of shortfalls Moore's flawed characters constantly exhibits as modern adults.

In the next story, "The Juniper Tree", the narrator puts off visiting her dying friend Robin with her current boyfriend, who once dated Robin, and reflects on the sorry state of the womenfolk in her town: "That was how dating among straight middle-aged women seemed to go in this college town: one available man every year or so just made the rounds of us all.... Every woman I knew here drank - daily. In rejecting the lives of our mothers, we found ourselves looking for stray volts of mother love in the very places they could never be found: gin, men, the college, our mothers, and one another." The abruptness of these summative lines so early in the story effectively lays bare on the page the bitterly realist tone of the piece in a concise and precise manner - so it is with some surprise when supernatural elements come on soon after. It is to Moore's credit that while the turn in the story shocks the reader, it remains perfectly credible and drives home the oppressive loneliness of these women that leads them into uneasy symbiotic relationships with one another.

Marriage is also examined under Moore's irreverent yet illuminating lens in "Paper Losses", where Kit, one half of an ex-hippie couple at the end of their union reflects wryly: "Marriage stopped being comic when it was suddenly halted, at which point it became divorce, which time never disrupted, and so the funniness of which was never-ending." Despite the bitterly-funny tone, Moore is never flippant about the fates of people who suffer the aftermath of divorce or abandonment. In "Wings", failed musician Dench describes how his dad had abandoned his mom by climbing out of a men's room window at a restaurant, and muses if "that is cowardice or a weird kind of courage." His partner KC replies that "it's neither.... It has nothing to do it in either of those things."

Collectively, these stories are short, sharp and filled with the kind of coffee table wisdom that stays with you after you close the book, like a heart-to-heart conversation with an old friend. Welcome back, Ms Moore.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 March 2014
Lorrie Moore has come in for some fire on this new book, and at least one other Amazon reviewer has pointed out the weight of expectation that attended this one: the length of time since she last published a collection could partly explain some people's disappointment.

And certainly, the first couple of stories (taking up 60ish pages) were ALSO in the bright orange Collected Stories, so that's slightly frustrating Value For Money-wise.

Also, the earlier stories in the book - like 'Wings', about a late thirties / early forties couple in a failing rock band, still not giving up hope of fame, or at least fortune - are verging on depressing.

But if you LOVE Lorrie Moore please BUY this book and READ IT ALL THE WAY TO THE END. The two last stories - one about a couple who've known each other since school, who've always had a thing for each other, and who meet up in Paris - and the other about honestly one of the craziest, best weddings in the whole of fiction - MUST NOT BE MISSED. One made me spit out my tea laughing, the other made me cry.

Sorry to put on Key Caps but seriously, this is actually important. Please buy the book.
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on 14 April 2014
Among the most acclaimed writers of mainstream literary fiction of her generation, Lorrie Moore’s latest, “Bark: Stories”, may be remembered as one of the finest short story collections published this year. These are eight compellingly readable tales about relations between the sexes, with Moore demonstrating that she is both a memorable storyteller and prose stylist. “Departing”, the first story, chronicles an older man’s efforts in winning the heart of a divorced pediatrician with an adorable tenth grader of a son. It is followed by “The Juniper Tree”, a surreal remembrance of a friend who dies, but returns for one last meeting at home with her close circle of female friends. In “Paper Losses”, a husband and wife who met during the 1960s peace movement, contemplate one last fling of marital bliss during a vacation in the tropics before filing for divorce. In “Foes”, set sometime during the 2008 Presidential campaign, art, literature and politics intrude upon a dinner conversation somewhere in Georgetown. In “Wings”, the collection’s longest story, two friends see their lives from the perspective of notable pop and rock songs. In “Referential”, one of the collection’s shortest, a woman tells her lover that she’s decided to bring home her deranged son who is institutionalized for his mental health disorder. In “Subject to Search”, a couple meet in a French café, discussing their lives in the context of the Iraq War and the upcoming 2004 Presidential election. Last, but not least, “Thank You for Having Me”, recounts how a single mom bonds with her daughter as she mourns the death of singer-songwriter Michael Jackson the day after his death.
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on 7 May 2015
I am not really a short story fan, but this was chosen as a Book Club read so I did my best. I didn't identify with a single character in the stories, and was unable to spot the humour that the reviewers were praising. Perhaps it is because the UK culture is different to the US, that the characters were unconvincing. I would give it a wide berth and it certainly hasn't encouraged me to check out her other books.
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on 12 May 2014
Life was pretty rough in the earlier Lorrie Moore stories, and always met with a salvo of jokes and aphorisms, most of them blackish.
The same is true here, but it is an older voice. There are fine stories of men and women living alone, after the terrible pain of divorce, which she describes as one of the great unmentionables. So too is grave mental and physical illness, which she describes fearlessly. I want to go back and write down some of her wonderful one-liners. She is a smart ass's smart ass, which I regard as a heroic thing to be, in the face of terrible things so many writers treat with a gluey sentimentality. I think her political stories aren't as successful, because always one is preaching to the choir. But an unmissable collection.
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on 13 February 2015
I love this book! I was very surprised at how much, since it's a little off my more serious "beaten path", but this is funny, wry, poignant, clever and entertaining literary fiction. Well-drawn characters, wonderful storylines, great 'voice' -- and just right to dip into for a really good read, deftly executed.
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on 11 April 2014
Lorrie Moore creates short fictions that sparkle with insight and humanity, humour and wit. I find her stories poignant and funny, often compassionate but never sentimental or trite. Like so many good short story writers, she makes the ordinary extraordinary. Wonderful.
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on 15 September 2016
Good read, Lorrie Moore is at her best with short stories
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on 1 October 2016
Excellent and thought provoking stories
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on 28 February 2015
Although nicely written I found each of these stories far too depressing. One more than the next. A sad reflection on relationships.
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