Solar systems

'Old, new solar systems', sketches on stickies by my five year-old son
I miss reading. I miss being lazy. I miss doing nothing but read, or analyse short stories. Today I spent thirty minutes reading Lorrie Moore's short story collection Self-Help. I read three: "How", "The Kid's Guide to Divorce", and "How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)". In How, as in almost all her short stories, the 'he' is not just about a certain man, nor does 'she' refer to a certain woman. In Lorrie Moore's world, the specifics do not matter. The vagueness of 'you' and her pronouns is deliberate - it's as if she hands you a blank page to translate in your own words, experiences, images... and most often, they glimmer, perhaps because how she describes feelings are just spot-on, just like in this paragraph:

His name means savior. He rolls into your arms like Ozzie and Harriet, the whole Nelson genealogy. He is living rooms and turkey and mantels and Vicks, a nip at the collarbone and you do a slow syrup sink into those arms like a hearth, into those living rooms, well hello Mary Lou.

Her writing also thrives in sounds, as she crafts sentences that rolls off the tongue: "Little children come at you with grins and grenades." Others conjure fantastic images: "Dream about rainbows, about escapes, about wizards. Your past will fly by you, event by event, like Dorothy's tornadoed neighborhood, past the blown-out window. Airborne. One by one. Wave hello, good-bye. Practice." Some are borderline funny: "The four of you in the cemetery would throw yourselves at his grave's edge, heaving and sobbing like old Israeli women."

And then there were motifs, executed with such characteristic grace, in the way that these recurrences don't feel like cheap tricks: the motif of babies (pregnancies, abortions, dolls, the "marks of stretch"), for example, or whole sentences that morph in each context. In How was this sentence: "There is never anything conclusive, just an endless series of tests." In the first instance it was bleak and ominous as it's written in the context of a man's visit to the doctor; in the second instance, tests become the sort you would say about dealing with affairs in the context of relationships. Even conclusive somewhat referred to their no-strings-attached relationship (as in, "There is never anything conclusive").

Great, great day. I feel good. I'm almost dancing to the tune of Lust for Youth's Sudden Ambitions

But I love Lorrie Moore

At Draft in Greenbelt one of our officemates asked: What do you really want to be when you grow up? Odd question when we're in our mid-20's and late-30's. One said dancer. Another said teacher. The guy sitting next to me said fictionist.

I wanted to say something else... but I said fictionist as well and moved on.

The other question that struck me, probably fuelled by a round of throat-burning tequila, was: Do you have lies or secrets that are just too despicable that you would rather take it to the grave with you?

Torbjorn Rodland