Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Bark by Lorrie Moore

In one of the eight short stories that make up the collection Bark, a woman comes to realize that, “Living did not mean one joy piled upon another. It was merely the hope for less pain…” Here, in one thought, is the theme of this collection by Lorrie Moore. Middle-aged men and women separate, divorce and try (without much success) to connect with new partners. Career choices and financial decisions have turned out to be mistakes. Children shock and disappoint. Illness looms in the future. Anxiety caused by financial collapse and a distant war hangs over society.  But this book is not as grim as it sounds. The characters in these stories are stoic. And, because Moore is an acclaimed wordsmith with a mischievous sense of humor, they deal with their problems by joking and wisecracking and punning. Moore also creates improbable scenarios that are gently humorous. A woman accidentally cooks a pan of chicken on the CLEAN setting of her oven but takes it to the party anyway. After a motorcycle gang realizes it is terrorizing the wrong outdoor wedding, they apologize and meekly drive away. The stories in Bark are about early 21st century American life. They are sad, ironic and quirky, just like real life.