Birds of America

Written by: Lorrie Moore

Birds of America Book Cover
A long-awaited collection of stories--twelve in all--by one of the most exciting writers at work today, the acclaimed author of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and Self-Help. Stories remarkable in their range, emotional force, and dark laughter, and in the sheer beauty and power of their language.

From the opening story, "Willing", about a second-rate movie actress in her thirties who has moved back to Chicago, where she makes a seedy motel room her home and becomes involved with a mechanic who has not the least idea of who she is as a human being, Birds of America unfolds a startlingly brilliant series of portraits of the unhinged, the lost, the unsettled of our America.

In the story "Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People" ("There is nothing as complex in the world--no flower or stone--as a single hello from a human being"), a woman newly separated from her husband is on a long-planned trip through Ireland with her mother. When they set out on an expedition to kiss the Blarney Stone, the image of wisdom and success that her mother has always put forth slips away to reveal the panicky woman she really is.

In "Charades," a family game at Christmas is transformed into a hilarious and insightful (and fundamentally upsetting) revelation of crumbling family ties.

In "Community Life,"a shy, almost reclusive, librarian, Transylvania-born and Vermont-bred, moves in with her boyfriend, the local anarchist in a small university town, and all hell breaks loose. And in "Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens," a woman who goes through the stages of grief as she mourns the death of her cat (Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Haagen Dazs, Rage) is seen by her friends as really mourning other issues: the impending death of her parents, the son she never had, Bosnia.

In what may be her most stunning book yet, Lorrie Moore explores the personal and the universal, the idiosyncratic and the mundane, with all the wit, brio, and verve that have made her one of the best storytellers of our time.
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Birds of America Reviews

Laura
Great short story collection. I liked the stories at the beginning and end the best, middle was okay. Very clever book. I loved the bird tie-ins - it felt like a secret revealed from the author in how she would incorporate it into each story. The author had a wide range of characters and tones, perhaps more perspectives than most short story collections I have read. Overall it has a lot of humor but plenty of haunting scenes and stories. The last two stories were particularly intense.

Back to the Great short story collection. I liked the stories at the beginning and end the best, middle was okay. Very clever book. I loved the bird tie-ins - it felt like a secret revealed from the author in how she would incorporate it into each story. The author had a wide range of characters and tones, perhaps more perspectives than most short story collections I have read. Overall it has a lot of humor but plenty of haunting scenes and stories. The last two stories were particularly intense.

Back to the humor. Lines like this were one reason I liked this book: “In the bathroom, she stared at her own reflection: in at attempt at extroversion, she had worn a tunic with large slices of watermelon depicted on the front. What has she been thinking of?”
Tonje Beisland
*3,5
Boring at times but also incredibly heartbreaking *3,5
Boring at times but also incredibly heartbreaking
Sasha Martinez
i picked this book up after not having read any of lorrie moore's work since grad school. she's rightly regarded as one of the premier contemporary american writers, and her short stories are beautiful, perceptive investigations of human behavior and the small moments in people's lives. the only story i'd read before was "people like that are the only people here," which remains in my opinion one of the best titles in the short story canon. my first reading, more than ten years ago, was before i i picked this book up after not having read any of lorrie moore's work since grad school. she's rightly regarded as one of the premier contemporary american writers, and her short stories are beautiful, perceptive investigations of human behavior and the small moments in people's lives. the only story i'd read before was "people like that are the only people here," which remains in my opinion one of the best titles in the short story canon. my first reading, more than ten years ago, was before i had children, and while other childless readers may well appreciate the power and magnitude of this story, i could not until re-reading it the other night. it blew me away. moore is funny and sharp and has an incredible gift for metaphor and simile--this last is probably reason enough to read the stories, lines like the one about the woman whose boring marriage had left her with lines around her mouth like quotations marks, "as if everything she said had already been said before." at times she can be a little too precious and academic--"terrific mother" is a terrific story with a lot of academic sludge to get through, although i suppose that's part of the point--but i think what i like most about moore is that she is good enough and serious enough to write about women (though not exclusively) without easily being dismissed as a "woman's writer." not that such a thing should be easily dismissable anyway.
Repair :: Reservation Blues :: Firestarter :: Skeleton Crew :: Like Life
Angie
So, yeah, the writing is fabulous - beautiful, in fact; at times I heard Sylvia Plath in the prose, her dark twists. I liked the humor of "Real Estate." But I just can't read any more of the bleak stuff... the babies, the ennui. I get the literary value, the repetitive themes, but please, dear God, please, someone help me out of it. Gimme something good, something that won't make me cry for its depth OR for its shallowness, something that gives me a little hope for the world and isn't drilling t So, yeah, the writing is fabulous - beautiful, in fact; at times I heard Sylvia Plath in the prose, her dark twists. I liked the humor of "Real Estate." But I just can't read any more of the bleak stuff... the babies, the ennui. I get the literary value, the repetitive themes, but please, dear God, please, someone help me out of it. Gimme something good, something that won't make me cry for its depth OR for its shallowness, something that gives me a little hope for the world and isn't drilling the Great Tragedy into my poor, tired brain until all the sad, gray life drains into a warm puddle next to my Kindle whose battery, O clever readers, lives on.
Alissa
In Birds of America, a short story collection filled with dark humor and emotion, Moore allows us to infer the entirety of a life in a moment, specifically the moment of crisis and transformation. Each character—an actress, a dance instructor, an employee for American Scholastic, a man struggling in his relationship, a woman whose husband cheats on her every spring, a mother—struggling with the moment of molting, not long before taking flight.
Karen
Lorrie Moore is very, very good. Each story seems to start off as a tight little exercise in cleverness - Moore's prose sometimes "sparkles" so brightly it makes my head hurt - but by the end she always manages, through a perfect turn of phrase or a well-placed image, to show how profoundly, irrevocably lonely her characters are. Each story is like a carefully aimed punch in the gut, and she got me every time.
Chaim
Everything I want a work of literature to do. Lorrie Moore blows off the facade of everyday life, revealing the dark, subtle, scary truths lying beneath, and doing so with precision, humor, and perfectly crafted but never artificial-sounding sentences. A book I can't wait to read again.
Pat Manley
I wouldn't have selected this book on my own; however, it was the November selection of my book club and so with a sigh, I downloaded it into my Kindle and started reading. The stories surprised me as some were so darkly funny, sarcastic, cynical and sometimes a little crazy. All in all, I found that most of the stories were enjoyable to me. Wasn't crazy about the one about the baby with cancer because no matter how it is presented, there is never anything enjoyable or entertaining about sick ch I wouldn't have selected this book on my own; however, it was the November selection of my book club and so with a sigh, I downloaded it into my Kindle and started reading. The stories surprised me as some were so darkly funny, sarcastic, cynical and sometimes a little crazy. All in all, I found that most of the stories were enjoyable to me. Wasn't crazy about the one about the baby with cancer because no matter how it is presented, there is never anything enjoyable or entertaining about sick children.

Lorrie Moore is a master in many ways, although sometimes the dialogue is monotonous, repetitive, and boring... but I think that about a lot of novels, short stories, and even non-fiction. You can't please all of the people, all of the time. :)
Stefani
Though many of the stories in Birds of America revel in the mire of depressing subject matter—childhood cancer, loneliness, death, to name a few—I'm happy to report Lorrie Moore sees the value in gallows humor. I found myself laughing when perhaps I should have been crying, or at least feeling somber, at lines like this: For winter, they had plastic-wrapped their home—the windows, the doors—so that it looked like a piece of avant-garde art. Saves on heating bills, they said. or this gem: "I woul Though many of the stories in Birds of America revel in the mire of depressing subject matter—childhood cancer, loneliness, death, to name a few—I'm happy to report Lorrie Moore sees the value in gallows humor. I found myself laughing when perhaps I should have been crying, or at least feeling somber, at lines like this: For winter, they had plastic-wrapped their home—the windows, the doors—so that it looked like a piece of avant-garde art. Saves on heating bills, they said. or this gem: "I would be a genius now...if only I'd memorized Shakespeare instead of Lulu." Mack would be a genius now if only he'd been born a completely different person.

Moore's characters are restless, frustrated, damaged, and occasionally, accidental murderers. In "Which is More Than I Can Say About Most People," Abby Mallon takes a trip to Ireland with her mother, the magical quality of the "Emerald Isle" revealing more about her mother than she ever thought possible. In "Agnes of Iowa" I thought the author captured a certain sad vulnerability and rudderless inevitability in Agnes's character, who eventually leaves NYC after a few years: Such a life required much exaggerated self-esteem. It engaged gross quantities of hope and despair and set them wildly side by side, like a Third World country of the heart. Her days grew messy with contradictions......At night, she and Joe did yoga to a yoga show on TV. It was part of their effort not to become their parents, though marriage, they knew, held that hazard...the sweet habit of each other had begun to put lines around her mouth, lines that looked like quotation marks–as if everything she said had already been said before.

Moore shows us that dysfunction, when done right, is undeniably entertaining.

Joann Amidon
A lot of the settings for the stories seemed so familiar to me perhaps because I lived for so long in the Midwest. People I know could have been the subject of more than one of these stories. I enjoyed Moore's writing but I did not find a single character I would invite for tea or a beer. Some of them just need a good shaking and a reminder that they are in charge of their own life so get on with it. Even so, it was an engaging book.
Thor Balanon
A delicious read. Savor each sentence when you read this. At turns funny and sad and mad, Lorrie Moore just surprises. She's a true wordsmith.
Dana Olbrantz
So many stories of complacency, and each one finds a way to be articulated so that you can swallow loneliness, grief, or boredom as a universal truth. I dog-eared many pages.
Lori
Every story in this collection is an utter delight of one form or another -- lonely, funny, touching, bottom-dropping-out, familiar. I nearly decided to stop highlighting sentences and passages that I loved because there were so many, but I couldn't stop. Moore has such a great way of dropping in a moment of hilarity at just the right moment, or of slipping in such a giant truth it makes you gasp. Her characters are honest and I was so surprised by how often they had a subversive kind of humor. Every story in this collection is an utter delight of one form or another -- lonely, funny, touching, bottom-dropping-out, familiar. I nearly decided to stop highlighting sentences and passages that I loved because there were so many, but I couldn't stop. Moore has such a great way of dropping in a moment of hilarity at just the right moment, or of slipping in such a giant truth it makes you gasp. Her characters are honest and I was so surprised by how often they had a subversive kind of humor. I really love this book and am glad I finally read Lorrie Moore; I'd resisted for too long for the stupidest reason imaginable (she spells her name differently than I do....see?). Finally I quit being stupid, and I'm so glad I did. READ THESE STORIES!!

Some of my favorite bits:

Abby began to think that all the beauty and ugliness and turbulence one found scattered through nature, one could also find in people themselves, all collected there, all together in a single place. No matter what terror or loveliness the earth could produce—winds, seas—a person could produce the seam, lived with the same, lived with all that mixed-up nature swirling inside, every bit. There was nothing as complex in the world—no flower or stone—as a single hello from a human being.

Her mother was always searching for country music, songs with the words devil woman. She loved those.

In an attempt at extroversion, she had worn a tunic with large slices of watermelon depicted on the front. What had she been thinking of?

Through college she had been a feminist—basically: she shaved her legs, but just not often enough, she liked to say.
He had never acquired the look of maturity anchored in sorrow that burnished so many men’s faces. His own sadness in life—a childhood of beatings, a dying mother—was like quicksand, and he had to stay away from it entirely. He permitted no unhappy memories spoken aloud. He stuck with the same mild cheerfulness he’d honed successfully as a boy.

Mack has moved so much in his life that every phone number he comes across seems to him to be one he’s had before. “I swear this used to be my number,” he says, putting the car into park and pointing at the guidebook: 923-7368. The built-in cadence of a phone number always hits him the same personal way: like something familiar but lost, something momentous yet insignificant.

“I would be a genius now,” Quilty has said three times already, “if only I’d memorized Shakespeare instead of Lulu.” “If only,” says Mack. Mack himself would be a genius now if only he had been born a completely different person. But what could you do? He’d read in a magazine once that geniuses were born only to women over thirty; his own mother had been twenty-nine. Damn! So fucking close!

Quilty grimaces. “I don’t like what comes after ‘dicker.’” “What is that?” Quilty sighs. “Dickest. I mean, really: it’s not a contest!”

In general, people were not road maps. People were not hieroglyphs or books. They were not stories.

A person was a collection of accidents. A person was an infinite pile of rocks with things growing underneath.

At all the funerals for love, love had its neat trick of making you mourn it so much, it reappeared. Popped right up from the casket.

Marriage, she felt, was a fine arrangement generally, except that one never got it generally. One got it very, very specifically.

The quarry was a spot that Terence had recommended as “a beautiful seclusion, a rodent Eden, a hillside of oaks above a running brook.” Such poetry: probably he’d gotten laid there once. Talk about your rodent Eden! In actuality, the place was a depressing little gravel gully, with a trickle of brown water running through it, a tiny crew of scrub oaks manning the nearby incline. It was the kind of place where the squirrel mafia would have dumped their offed squirrels.
Kerri
I want to write like Lorrie Moore writes. I want my work to be funny, sad, smart and unpredictable all at the same time. I picked up this book a couple of months ago at the library, but at the time, for whatever reason, I couldn’t give it the attention I knew it deserved. I decided to come back to it, and I’m glad I did.

Most of the stories in this collection deal with individuals, some alone and some among others, who feel alienated. For example, in “Community Life” Olena realizes after the deat I want to write like Lorrie Moore writes. I want my work to be funny, sad, smart and unpredictable all at the same time. I picked up this book a couple of months ago at the library, but at the time, for whatever reason, I couldn’t give it the attention I knew it deserved. I decided to come back to it, and I’m glad I did.

Most of the stories in this collection deal with individuals, some alone and some among others, who feel alienated. For example, in “Community Life” Olena realizes after the deaths of both her parents that the letters of her name spell “alone.”

Moore’s characters are easy to love and difficult to leave behind when the story ends. I will not soon forget Sidra, the mid-western actress; Quilty, the blind gay man; or the Mother, unnamed in the penultimate story of the book.

One of my favorite moments comes in “What You Want to Do Fine.” The character, Mack, doesn’t want to go to Memphis because of an experience he had there as a child.

“Mack had no great fondness for Memphis. Once, as a boy, he’d been chased by a bee there, down a street that was long and narrow and lined on one side with parked cars. He’d ducked into a phone booth, but the bee waited for him, and Mack ended up stepping out after twenty minutes and getting stung anyway. It wasn’t true what they said about bees. There were not all that busy. They had time. They could wait.”

Okay, so it’s not profound, and it’s certainly a detour from the main drive of the plot. However, these funny, awkward and sometimes sad deviations make Moore’s work unique. I am happy to let her take me wherever she wishes to go.

In addition, Moore’s wit is quick and edgy. In the final story of the book, “Terrific Mother,” the narrator says of a character who has just left a massage, “She felt a little like she had just seen God, but also a little like she had just seen a hooker.” The book is filled with lines like this in addition to Moore’s usual plays on words. In “Agnes of Iowa” she writes, “Every third Monday, he conducted the monthly departmental meeting—aptly named, Agnes liked to joke, since she did indeed depart mental.”

I probably prefer a novel by Moore simply because I get to live with the characters for longer. However, she is a master of the craft of the short story, and any writer interested in exploring structure, character and tone would do well to look to this collection.
Graham Wilhauk
ORIGINAL REVIEW:

When I first read Ted Chiang's masterful collection "Stories of Your Life and Others," I thought that if any collection would defeat it, it would take me years to find it. Surprise surprise, I found one only 6 months later. To best describe "Birds of America," it is a diverse collection. When people hear the word diversity, they usually think of racial and sexual diversity like having black characters or having gay characters or having middle-eastern characters. However, this col ORIGINAL REVIEW:

When I first read Ted Chiang's masterful collection "Stories of Your Life and Others," I thought that if any collection would defeat it, it would take me years to find it. Surprise surprise, I found one only 6 months later. To best describe "Birds of America," it is a diverse collection. When people hear the word diversity, they usually think of racial and sexual diversity like having black characters or having gay characters or having middle-eastern characters. However, this collection is much more based on the idea of diverse topics. Every story has different driving force to it. From motherhood to travel to even Christmas, "Birds of America" is the clear definition of a perfect short story collection in terms of ideas. I adored reading these stories and seeing what each one had to say. I was sad when one would finish and I would be extremely happy when one started. I took my time with this collection just to absorb the experience of these stories. Also, while there were things in a story or two that I personally would have written differently to fit my taste better, this story is perfection in terms of at least one story clicking with its audience. This is truly a book I can people liking at least one of its stories. Simply put, "Birds of America" is my new favorite short story collection of all time and is currently sitting at the #4 spot of the top 10 books I have read in 2017 so far (behind "The Nix" at #1, "The Stand" at #2, and "The Pillars of the Earth" at #3). Well, it's now time to buy the rest of Lorrie Moore's short story collections!

I am giving this one a 5 out of 5 stars.

NEW REVIEW:

After reading this great collection, every attempt I've tried to like another Lorrie Moore book has failed dramatically. They were so bad that it made me think less of this collection. However, this collection is still great. Just not 5 star great.

I am giving this one a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Robert
I’d read the final story in this collection, “Terrific Mother,” several years ago at the urging of a friend, and remembered being very impressed with both the story and Lorrie Moore’s witty, assured, graceful prose. Finally got around to reading her in one large dose here and remain impressed with her literary skills, particularly in the brutal “People Like That Are the Only People Here,” a merciless look at the plight of a couple whose baby has been diagnosed with kidney cancer. This one is so I’d read the final story in this collection, “Terrific Mother,” several years ago at the urging of a friend, and remembered being very impressed with both the story and Lorrie Moore’s witty, assured, graceful prose. Finally got around to reading her in one large dose here and remain impressed with her literary skills, particularly in the brutal “People Like That Are the Only People Here,” a merciless look at the plight of a couple whose baby has been diagnosed with kidney cancer. This one is so raw and so “insider” I felt it had to be autobiographical (which it apparently is - God). Just brilliantly done. Among the other standouts for me are “Real Estate,” the tale of a neurotic woman who conflates her complex relationships with her spouse and child with the house(s) in which she dwells; the beautifully compact “Charades,” which explores the fraying relationship dynamics of a well-to-do family playing the titular game; and “What You Want to Do Fine,” a character piece featuring a very oddball male couple on an oddball cross-country journey. A couple of other stories felt a tad too New Yorker-y (if you know what I mean) for me to fully enjoy, but really, even the least of these are interesting and well-crafted. I also have to mention the wealth of alternately witty or piercingly insightful lines and passages throughout – so many you’ll eventually have to write down your favorites if you want to remember them (check out other reader reviews for a healthy sampling of these). Birds of America is a first-rate collection I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to aficionados of the short story form.
Lorraine
I've taken a real liking to Lorrie Moore. I'm glad I have started reading some short stories again, and particularly her. I loe it when people share books with me (thanks, Jenn).

Moore is a master at short story writing. Her characters are so wild and so exaggerated that they become believable. She takes us into an imaginary journey with them, and we begin to recognize character traits of people we know and people we love.

Most of her character have a skewed reality; they are usually broken people I've taken a real liking to Lorrie Moore. I'm glad I have started reading some short stories again, and particularly her. I loe it when people share books with me (thanks, Jenn).

Moore is a master at short story writing. Her characters are so wild and so exaggerated that they become believable. She takes us into an imaginary journey with them, and we begin to recognize character traits of people we know and people we love.

Most of her character have a skewed reality; they are usually broken people.They tell bad jokes and use puns. It's Moore's style. It's her humor that made me laugh out loud at times, and feel very sad at other times. In "Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens" Agnes mourns the loss of her cat Bert. She explains she has known him longer than her husband and her daughter. I like this passage:

"She had already --carefully, obediently--stepped through all the stages of bereavement: anger, denial, bargaining, Haagen-Das, rage. Anger to rage--who said she wasn't making progress?"

"Terrific Mother" is a touching story of a mother and father with a child who has cancer. She is a master of words. And the words she uses to describe what it is like going through cancer with a child and the parents of other children who have cancer are both disturbing and realistic.

All the stories has some reference to birds, hence the title.

Moore is a melancholic writer with a great sense of humor. We need humor in this crazy world.
Anne
Before I picked up this book, I had only read Lorrie Moore's novels--Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and A Gate at the Stairs--and hadn't particularly liked them, despite my best efforts. I was told that if I really wanted to get a sense of Moore as a writer, I should read her stories.

I liked this book, but I'm still not quite a Lorrie Moore fan. There's something distancing about her writing--sometimes the writing is so beautiful that I have to re-read it a couple of times to get the meaning o Before I picked up this book, I had only read Lorrie Moore's novels--Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and A Gate at the Stairs--and hadn't particularly liked them, despite my best efforts. I was told that if I really wanted to get a sense of Moore as a writer, I should read her stories.

I liked this book, but I'm still not quite a Lorrie Moore fan. There's something distancing about her writing--sometimes the writing is so beautiful that I have to re-read it a couple of times to get the meaning out of it. (It feels silly to criticize somebody's writing for being TOO beautiful, but it cannot be helped.) There were a couple of stories that I particularly liked--"Charades" and "What You Want to Do Fine"--that I felt were ruined by the final paragraph being so much loftier and more metaphorical than everything else. Moore's strength, I think, lies in the detail work she does, which then yields meaning. She doesn't need to lay out the point of the story in the last paragraph, with the main character having a big revelation, because the stories are so tightly plotted and detailed that the reader already knows what the story is about, on a larger scale.

I wouldn't mind reading more of her short stories, actually--I find them fascinating intellectually, if not engaging on a personal level.
Catherine Siemann
Moore's collection lives up to its reputation for being extraordinary -- there were so many moments in the writing which hit me as being brilliant use of language. I'm not ordinarily a short story fan, so that sometimes the slight-twist-ambiguous-ending starts to annoy. Because the stories deal largely with women of a certain age, they may have hit home in uncomfortable ways for me, as well. But while Moore's characters may, in their varied ways, ring the same changes, the endings of the stories Moore's collection lives up to its reputation for being extraordinary -- there were so many moments in the writing which hit me as being brilliant use of language. I'm not ordinarily a short story fan, so that sometimes the slight-twist-ambiguous-ending starts to annoy. Because the stories deal largely with women of a certain age, they may have hit home in uncomfortable ways for me, as well. But while Moore's characters may, in their varied ways, ring the same changes, the endings of the stories differ enough to lead to some pleasant surprises. Hence, the ending of the final story "Terrific Mother":

"We are with each other now," Martin was saying. "And in the different ways it means, we must try to make a life."

Out over the Sfondrata chapel tower, where the fog had broken, she thought she saw a single star, like the distant nose of a jet; there were people in the clayey clouds. She turned, and for a moment it seemed they were all there in Martin's eyes, all the absolving dead in residence in his face, the angel of the dead baby shining like a blazing creature, and she went to him, to protect and encircle him, seeking the heart's best trick, oh, terrific heart. "Please, forgive me," she said.

And he whispered," Of course. It is the only thing. Of course."
Laura
“Staring out through the window, off into the horizon, Abby began to think that all the beauty and ugliness and turbulence one found scattered through nature, one could also find in people themselves, all collected there, all together in a single place. No matter what terror or loveliness the earth could produce — winds, seas — a person could produce the same, lived with the same, lived with all that mixed-up nature swirling inside, every bit. There was nothing as complex in the world — no flowe “Staring out through the window, off into the horizon, Abby began to think that all the beauty and ugliness and turbulence one found scattered through nature, one could also find in people themselves, all collected there, all together in a single place. No matter what terror or loveliness the earth could produce — winds, seas — a person could produce the same, lived with the same, lived with all that mixed-up nature swirling inside, every bit. There was nothing as complex in the world — no flower or stone — as a single hello from a human being.” (From “Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People”)

“It seemed to her that everything she had ever needed to know in her life she had known at one time or another, but she just hadn’t known all those things at once, at the same time, at a single moment. They were scattered through and she had had to leave and forget one in order to get to another. A shadow fell across her, inside her, and she could feel herself retreat to that place in her bones where death was and you greeted it like an acquaintance in a room; you said hello and were then ready for whatever was next — which might be a guide, the guide that might be sent to you, the guide to lead you back out into your life again.” (From “Terrific Mother”)
Kerfe
I liked most of these stories--or at least parts of them--a lot. Just not as much as I thought I should have.

Some have intriguing but underdeveloped possibilities that peter out without direction or point. Some have a good story that doesn't seem to belong in the story where it appears. Some start out well but then veer off, crossing a line that deflates the magic. Some just meander about a bit too long.

"Four Calling Birds", "Which is More Than I Can Say About Some People", and "Terrific Mother" I liked most of these stories--or at least parts of them--a lot. Just not as much as I thought I should have.

Some have intriguing but underdeveloped possibilities that peter out without direction or point. Some have a good story that doesn't seem to belong in the story where it appears. Some start out well but then veer off, crossing a line that deflates the magic. Some just meander about a bit too long.

"Four Calling Birds", "Which is More Than I Can Say About Some People", and "Terrific Mother" avoided those problems; they were satisfying, coherent, astute.

And then there's the worth-the-price-of-admission story, the second to last one, "People Like That Are the Only People Here". Mother, Father, Baby With Cancer: "A beginning, an end. There seems to be neither. The whole thing is like a cloud that just lands and everywhere inside it is full of rain." Devastating. And perfectly, understatedly, rendered.

Moore is discerning about human actions and motivations. Almost all of these stories are worth reading. But with such high praise from so many sources, my expectations exceeded my actual reading experience.

Djrmel
Moore has the gift for not only seeing what's going on behind the facade, but is able to write about it without spoiling the pretty images we all work so hard to project. She does this with humor that can cut to pathos and bounce to glib within a single paragraph. A reader will need to make an effort to follow along, or her stories can come off as contrived. She's not an author for everyone, even within her collections her fans will admit to her occasionally publishing something is too obvious i Moore has the gift for not only seeing what's going on behind the facade, but is able to write about it without spoiling the pretty images we all work so hard to project. She does this with humor that can cut to pathos and bounce to glib within a single paragraph. A reader will need to make an effort to follow along, or her stories can come off as contrived. She's not an author for everyone, even within her collections her fans will admit to her occasionally publishing something is too obvious in its attempt to hit the high standard Moore sets for herself. In this book, "Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People" is full of great observations and one liners, said by characters you could find in 50% any mother/daughter story published in the last ten years. Moore can do better than that. "Charades" about a family gathering where psychological wounds are prodded as a matter of course, is a story that is Moore at her very best.
Samantha
Scanning the reviews of this book below, it seems like a lot of readers complain that the characters in the stories are too alike. I find this interesting because for me, the similarities among characters is what makes this book great. This is a collection of people who are lonely despite companionship, who have failed quietly and unremarkably, and who often have no reason to continue living but who do so anyway. Something about the number of characters in these situations suggests that these ch Scanning the reviews of this book below, it seems like a lot of readers complain that the characters in the stories are too alike. I find this interesting because for me, the similarities among characters is what makes this book great. This is a collection of people who are lonely despite companionship, who have failed quietly and unremarkably, and who often have no reason to continue living but who do so anyway. Something about the number of characters in these situations suggests that these characters are not freaks, but that they are normal, that this is a normal kind of life, which is so much darker and sadder. These are characters I relate to, but whose friend I wouldn't want to be. A couple times in this collection (possibly in the same story), characters ask, "What's wrong with this country?" I think this whole book asks that question over and over again, beautifully.
Sansriti Tripathi
I literally just finished reading this book, but even so all 12 of the short stories in this collection blur together in my mind to the point where each individual story is a hardly recognizable mush. The figure at the center of every story is a mildly depressed, complacent individual, and by the time I hit story 3 it was honestly just tiresome. Ultimately, every story is disappointing from start to finish: nondescript person does nothing, goes nowhere. I love a good short story - I think pieces I literally just finished reading this book, but even so all 12 of the short stories in this collection blur together in my mind to the point where each individual story is a hardly recognizable mush. The figure at the center of every story is a mildly depressed, complacent individual, and by the time I hit story 3 it was honestly just tiresome. Ultimately, every story is disappointing from start to finish: nondescript person does nothing, goes nowhere. I love a good short story - I think pieces of short fiction have the potential to pack resonant, powerful punches - but the only thing Birds of America had me feeling was bored. :/
Angela
I loved Anagrams, Self Help, and Like Life, and Birds of America continues Moore's tradition of succinctly capturing the inner life of isolated misfits. (One starts to wonder what would happen if all of these characters ever met, until Moore settles that thought near the end of the book with "Real Estate.")

Some of these stories are great, but others are lackluster. It took me months to get into this book because I kept stalling and falling asleep on the beach while reading "Willing." This is no I loved Anagrams, Self Help, and Like Life, and Birds of America continues Moore's tradition of succinctly capturing the inner life of isolated misfits. (One starts to wonder what would happen if all of these characters ever met, until Moore settles that thought near the end of the book with "Real Estate.")

Some of these stories are great, but others are lackluster. It took me months to get into this book because I kept stalling and falling asleep on the beach while reading "Willing." This is not an entirely unpleasant way to spend an afternoon, but the collection does start out slowly and it's not Moore's best.
Michael
I'd say that this is her best collection hands down, but then that would seem to be slighting Like Life, which is great great great, and Self-Help. Instead, maybe "best yet" for the way the stories here introduce a ... steadier gaze in Moore's work. That is, she can look at sad things longer without having to take recourse in a joke. Wasn't always the case with her work. But stories such as "People Like That Are the Only People Here" and "Terrific Mother" couldn't exist otherwise.

Anyway, she's e I'd say that this is her best collection hands down, but then that would seem to be slighting Like Life, which is great great great, and Self-Help. Instead, maybe "best yet" for the way the stories here introduce a ... steadier gaze in Moore's work. That is, she can look at sad things longer without having to take recourse in a joke. Wasn't always the case with her work. But stories such as "People Like That Are the Only People Here" and "Terrific Mother" couldn't exist otherwise.

Anyway, she's easily one of our best short story writers. It's been nine years since this was published; where's the next book?

And Will, your three star rating is mystifying.
Linda
I originally read this when it first came out, and got it from the library for an easy read. Which it is, even though the best story it utterly heartbreaking (People Like That Are the Only People Here). What I was left with after reading was a feeling of relief that I'm not teaching English or Creative Writing in some University, as many of her women characters do. Good book to read if you are wishing you had taken that route when younger, and it's now to late. In the end, I found that the relen I originally read this when it first came out, and got it from the library for an easy read. Which it is, even though the best story it utterly heartbreaking (People Like That Are the Only People Here). What I was left with after reading was a feeling of relief that I'm not teaching English or Creative Writing in some University, as many of her women characters do. Good book to read if you are wishing you had taken that route when younger, and it's now to late. In the end, I found that the relentless humor, sarcasm, cleverness, & word-play of the writing was tedious.
Emi
Lorrie Moore is perfect, but we already knew that.

I try to pace myself and space out her books (there just aren't enough of them!), and I've been looking forward to reading this one for years. In addition to being one of her most well-known collections, it contains the first story of hers I ever read - and immediately fell in love with - in a college lit class. While all Moore's stories are tiny miracles, I think "People Like That Are The Only People Here" would have shone through as exceptiona Lorrie Moore is perfect, but we already knew that.

I try to pace myself and space out her books (there just aren't enough of them!), and I've been looking forward to reading this one for years. In addition to being one of her most well-known collections, it contains the first story of hers I ever read - and immediately fell in love with - in a college lit class. While all Moore's stories are tiny miracles, I think "People Like That Are The Only People Here" would have shone through as exceptionally brilliant even if it weren't already so special to me.
CindySlowReader
I think this book was written in code. Toward the end of the book, page 179, you will see two pages full of this: Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha! I think the author was laughing at me for getting that far into her book and finally realizing it was all a bad joke.

Or maybe I am just too unsophisticated to understand these stories. It's a New York Times Book Review "Best Book Of The Year" after all! .......nah, this book just sucks.
Michael
A quality collection of short stories from Lorrie Moore, all of which center around the totalitarian effects that love and death have on our senses of identity and the narratives foundations of our lives. All the stories are shot through with enough grace, dignity, and gallows humor to avoid the maudlin tones that might otherwise pop up considering the subject matters. Highlights include "Dance in America," "Community Life," and the classic "People Like That Are the Only People Here."
Ryan Williams
Still Moore's best collection, I think - no lean praise considering her earlier work, such as 'You're Ugly, Too.' Her novella Who Will Run The Frog Hospital? is also worth a look.

I wish, though, she would risk injecting a little more emotion into her stories besides embarrassment. (I can't help wondering if this trait is what has endeared her so to English writers.)
Sara
Moore's writing is wonderful. She brings out such raw emotion in each story, and creates incredibly vivid and unique characters. This collection felt a little melodramatic overall, but the intense despair doesn't ultimately take away from the substance of the book.
Anna
My favorite stories in this collection are those that focus on a single event (Charades, Beautiful Grade). Also liked Terrific Mother, from its shocking beginning to its detailed description of life at an artists' retreat in Italy.
Graham Oliver
Lorrie Moore's characters and themes and observations are super repetitive but it doesn't matter to me because the humor she repeats works and the emotional depths that she hits on repeat works and I wish I could curl up inside her brain.
Georgia
I know I'm supposed to like Lorrie Moore, but.................
Teatum
I love love love Lorrie Moore, and her short stories are just beautifully constructed, complete and perfect.
Brian
great book. a few of the stories were just ok but the good ones were so great that lorrie still gets five out of five. i love you, lorrie.
Cathleen
A fantastic collection that reminded me how perfect short stories can be. Great dialogue, funny and poignant, often all within the same paragraph.
Vicki
Was missing good literature, picked this up- didn't disappoint, just didn't live up to the unrealistic expectations I have for Goddess Moore.
Revisit at a less happy time in your Life. Say, 40.
Molly
“Every love affair is like having raccoons in your chimney."
Mary
Moore's strength lies in her ability to write compelling short stories. This is a much better use of her talents for observation and human frailty than her novel "A Gate at the Stairs".
Sarah
I don't understand why someone didn't give me this book to read sooner. One of the best, most evocative and sharp writers I have ever experienced.
Adriana
Lo que pensé todo el tiempo -largo tiempo, porque las cosas que me gustan mucho las extiendo en lugar de querer terminarlas rápido- mientras leía este libro es: nunca más acepto bullshit.
Tara
I really enjoyed these stories. Some of the characters will stay with me for a long time. She seems to capture the mood of the 90s well.
Brooke
The stories were hauntingly beautiful. However, I was depressed by the end of them. I think I need to take Lorrie Moore stories in smaller doses.
Kelly DuMar
One of the best books of short stories I've ever read. Funny, engaging, smart, relevant.
Larry
Four stars, but that’s rounded up from 3.5.

These expertly-written, entertaining stories seem to me to stay on the surface, mostly, and for my taste went too often for a joke that seemed to belong in some other kind of story. For example, from the first one, “Willing,” about a discouraged actress who gets involved with a man seemingly below her,

“So what is this guy, a race-car driver? asked Tommy.

“No, he’s a mechanic.”

“Ugh! Quit him like a music lesson!”

“Like a music lesson? What is this, Similes Four stars, but that’s rounded up from 3.5.

These expertly-written, entertaining stories seem to me to stay on the surface, mostly, and for my taste went too often for a joke that seemed to belong in some other kind of story. For example, from the first one, “Willing,” about a discouraged actress who gets involved with a man seemingly below her,

“So what is this guy, a race-car driver? asked Tommy.

“No, he’s a mechanic.”

“Ugh! Quit him like a music lesson!”

“Like a music lesson? What is this, Similes from the Middle Class? One Man’s Opinion?” She was irritated.

"Sidra. This is not right! You need to go out with somewhat really smart for a change.”

“I’ve been out with smart. I’ve been out with someone who has two Ph.D.’s. We spent all of our time in bed with the lights on, proofreading his vita.” She sighed. “Every little thing he’s ever done, every little, little, little. I mean, have you ever seen a vita?”

Tommy sighed, too. He had heard this story of Sidra’s before. “Yes,” he said, “I thought Patti LuPone was great.”

All of the stories but one are told in the third person, so one feels the author’s presence, and it’s often an attitude of bemusement, sometimes through the eyes of the characters. . .

In “Dance in America,” a dance teacher visits an old friend:

“The house is amazing to look at,” I say. “It’s beat up in such an intricate way. Like a Rauschenberg. Like one of those beautiful wind-battered billboards one sees in the California desert.”

. . . and sometimes the author is laughing. . .

In “Agnes of Iowa,” an awkward girl moves to New York and on the second page meets a “black-slacked, frosted-haired woman whose skin was papery and melanomic with suntan” who asks where she’s from. “Originally.”

“Where am I from?” Agnes said it softly. “Iowa.” She had a tendency not to speak up.

“Where?” The woman scowled, bewildered.

“Iowa,” Agnes repeated loudly.

The woman in black touched Agnes’s wrist and leaned in confidentially. She moved her mouth in a concerned and exaggerated way, like a facial exercise. “No, dear,” she said. “Here we say O-hi-o.”

(I admit I got a good laugh out of this.)

As the book goes on, the stories do get more serious. In “Real Estate,” a woman’s house is invaded by increasingly dangerous creatures, as her body is invaded by cancer. “People Like that are the Only People Here” is about a young husband and wife whose son is diagnosed with cancer. We are invited to think (the main character is The Mother, and so on) that the story is - yeeks! - autobiographical. Even here, when The Husband learns the diagnosis, he says “ Why didn’t it happen to one of us? It’s so unfair. Just last week, my doctor declared me in perfect health: the prostate of a twenty-year-old, the heart of a ten-year-old, the brain of an insect - or whatever it was he said.”

In the last story, “Terrific Mother,” a woman is involved in an accident that causes the death of a friend’s child. But the story takes place at an academic conference, which is a source of some humor:

At dinner, she sat next to a medievalist who had just finished his sixth book on the Canterbury Tales.

“Sixth,” repeated Adrienne.

“There’s a lot there,” he said defensively.

Adrienne finds some solace in a local massage therapist and then is enraged when she finds that her husband has gone to her, too, without telling her. The marriage is presented as tentative at first, but by the end of the story it has become stronger.

Partly, it seems like Moore’s purpose is to show how we use humor to avoid difficult feelings. Or it might be that more generally, humor is a defense against a world that doesn’t care about us. Humor in the face of an ugly world is something I associate with Jewish literature - but the complaints against God there are usually fiercer. Here, I kept questioning the author’s judgment in balancing the legitimate emotions of the stories with what may have been simply a desire to entertain.

Ah, where is our Flannery O’Connor? She was not bemused.
Cynthia
I'm somewhere between did not like it and it was ok.

I took notes, little snippets of what I liked and disliked in each story. While reading, I often felt annoyed. After finishing the book, I remained irked. Reviewing my notes, I see I liked more than I thought. Still, isn't it the comprehensive feeling that stays with you? I think so. And now I have a creeping feeling that I was searching for bits I liked because I'm supposed to like Lorrie Moore's short stories. The only stories I liked overall I'm somewhere between did not like it and it was ok.

I took notes, little snippets of what I liked and disliked in each story. While reading, I often felt annoyed. After finishing the book, I remained irked. Reviewing my notes, I see I liked more than I thought. Still, isn't it the comprehensive feeling that stays with you? I think so. And now I have a creeping feeling that I was searching for bits I liked because I'm supposed to like Lorrie Moore's short stories. The only stories I liked overall, were People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk and Terrific Mother. They weren't pleasant to read, and they weren't without irritation, but they flowed more than the others. Dance in America, Community Life, Charades and Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens had points of humor, cleverness, and reader connection to characters.

The stories are consubstantial, the characters similar, and not much is happening. There were paragraphs that flowed, but soon I felt jerked in a different direction, not creatively, just jerked. I didn't feel a connection with most of the characters. Many characters were detached, aloof, and I was merely an observer, a reader.

The metaphors are awful, forced. They don't work. Here are just a few: "When she found it, she strapped herself in tightly, as if she were something wild--and animal or a star." (p. 76) "In his mouth is a piece of grey chewing gum like a rat's brain." (p. 126) "...transparent as a baby's gas." (p. 146) "...bleeding daily on the carpet of their brains." (p.188) "Carpenter ants, like shiny pieces of a child's game...." (p. 192) "Rage circled and built in him, like a saxophone solo." (p. 199) "Her heart flapped and fluttered, like something hit sloppily by a car." (p. 204) "The mother knows her own face is a big white dumpling of worry." (p. 214) You get the idea. Additionally, there's too much play on words, to the point of irritation. It's too painful to list examples.

Some statements just don't make sense. They are meant to be profound and poetic, yet they strike me as simply wrong. "There was nothing as complex in the world--no flower or stone--as a single hello from a human being." (p.76) That's bullshit. "Every arrangement in life carried with it the sadness, the sentimental shadow, of its not being something else, but only itself..." (p. 94) Sounds like major depression to me. It's just not true, too all-encompassing. "He feels the sickened sensation he has sometimes felt after killing a housefly and finding blood it it" (p. 139) Really? It's not wrong. Perhaps he does, but what would have the same feeling as that? And isn't it a mosquito, not a fly? "A person was an infinite pile of rocks with things growing underneath." (p. 148) WTF? Okay, that's enough.

One last gripe from People Like That Are the Only People Here : The Midwest does not aspire to be Long Island. Moore was born in Glens Falls, New York, attended St. Lawrence University, lived in Manhattan for two years, then went to Cornell University. She taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 30 years. She lived in the Midwest for over half of her life by the time she left Madison to teach at Vanderbilt University. The Midwest/Long Island bit seems like a disparaging remark. It's the typical New Yorker dismissing Long Islanders and Midwesterners in one full swoop. She should know better, especially as she lived in Madison. Yes, I'm biased. Wait, perhaps she dislikes Madison for a personal reason. I wonder what it could be.

Okay, one more grievance from the same story: It's not the first time I've seen social workers presented as obtuse, even though they are trained to be otherwise. That's aggravating enough, but to see the entire children's hospital staff portrayed as clueless, "...their chirpy voices both startle and soothe." If staff stopped by to see your baby post surgery and muttered, "Jesus Christ!", they'd get fired.

Where's the line between reviewing the book you read, not the book you wish the author had written? I was going to read one story each day, think about it, savor it, remember the characters. I chose instead to read through the stories as quickly as possible, get it over with.

I'm going to read Self-Help so I can write a good review for Lorrie Moore.
Kathy
All twelve stories in Birds of America are just wonderful.
The stories I liked best:
Willing
Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People
Community Life
Charades
Terrific Mother

Some of my favorite passages:

Ray is dyslexic. When the roofing business slows in the winter months, instead of staying in with a book, or going to psychotherapy, he drives to cheap matinees of bad movies—“flicks” he calls them, or “cliffs” when he’s making fun of himself...He is ardent and capable and claims almost every night All twelve stories in Birds of America are just wonderful.
The stories I liked best:
Willing
Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People
Community Life
Charades
Terrific Mother

Some of my favorite passages:

Ray is dyslexic. When the roofing business slows in the winter months, instead of staying in with a book, or going to psychotherapy, he drives to cheap matinees of bad movies—“flicks” he calls them, or “cliffs” when he’s making fun of himself...He is ardent and capable and claims almost every night in his husbandly way to find Therese the sexiest woman he’s ever known. Therese likes that. She is also having an affair with a young assistant DA in the prosecutor’s office, but it is a limited thing—like taking her gloves off, clapping her hands, and putting the gloves back on again. It is quiet and undiscoverable. It is nothing, except that it is sex with a man who is not dyslexic, and once in a while, Jesus Christ, she needs that. Charades
-------------------------------------------
Poor Jack: perhaps she had put him through too much. Just last spring, there had been her bunion situation—the limping, the crutch, and the big blue shoe. Then in September, there had been Mimi Andersen’s dinner party, where Jack, the only non-smoker, was made to go out on the porch while everyone else stayed inside and lit up. Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens
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“I specialize in Christmas,” said the psychotherapist, a man named Sidney Poe, who wore an argyle sweater vest, a crisp bow tie, shiny black oxfords, and no socks. “Christmas specials. You feel better by Christmas, or your last session is free."...

Only once did she actually have to slap Sidney awake—lightly. Mostly, she could just clap her hands once and call his name—Sid!—and he would jerk upright in his psychiatrist’s chair, staring wide. Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens
--------------------------------------------
I believe in the present tense,” Bill says now, to no one in particular. “I believe in amnesty.” He stops. People are looking but not speaking. “Or is that just fancy rhetoric?”

“It’s not that fancy,” says Jack.

“It’s fancy,” Albert says kindly, ever the host, “without being schmancy.” Beautiful Grads
Beth
This is my second Lorrie Moore book, and it wasn't till I had finished the book that I went to figure out if I'd read this author before. Something in the writing nagged me about halfway in, and I was certain I'd read her before. That says something about the style of writing - it's unique enough that my brain said "you've read this author before," and I grew more convinced of it the more I kept reading the book. What's odd is that I gave 3 out of 5 stars to the first book I read, Bark, and my r This is my second Lorrie Moore book, and it wasn't till I had finished the book that I went to figure out if I'd read this author before. Something in the writing nagged me about halfway in, and I was certain I'd read her before. That says something about the style of writing - it's unique enough that my brain said "you've read this author before," and I grew more convinced of it the more I kept reading the book. What's odd is that I gave 3 out of 5 stars to the first book I read, Bark, and my review said something to the effect of "decent writing. The writing isn't for me, but I'd read another book by this same author." Present Beth is laughing at past Beth.

I picked up this book at Half-Price Books warehouse sale, and I'm so thankful I did. I had a really hard time putting this book down. I also suffered the classic dilemma of finishing a short story, wanting to close the book to savor the story and dwell on it, while simultaneously wanting to rush ahead and read the next story. My impatience won out every time!

Overall, I'd say that the short stories are about regular, ordinary people, who are going through some sort of hurt or trauma, or perhaps are slowly learning that what they thought about the world, others, themselves isn't quite true. I liked the stories for their ordinariness. I also liked the references to the midwest. I can't remember the details surrounding this next item, but there's an exchange between characters where the one character says she's originally from Iowa. The other person says, "Oh no honey, round here we call that O-hi-o." Cracked me up. People constantly confuse Iowa and Ohio and this Ohio-an can't quite figure out why.

I'll likely go back and re-read Bark to see if I appreciate it more now that I know I love Birds of America. I highly recommend this book.
Daniel
So many wonderful, painful stories of lonely people just missing connecting with one another. Affairs and deaths, passion projects and aimlessness, a whole lot of searching with few answers mixed in with some unexpectedly weird endings. Moore embraces uncertainty and unresolvedness with a lot of these stories which can be frustrating when you invest so deeply in her characters, but is probably truer to life than easy catharsis. A lot of it’s a downer, but there are enough sprinkles of hope and b So many wonderful, painful stories of lonely people just missing connecting with one another. Affairs and deaths, passion projects and aimlessness, a whole lot of searching with few answers mixed in with some unexpectedly weird endings. Moore embraces uncertainty and unresolvedness with a lot of these stories which can be frustrating when you invest so deeply in her characters, but is probably truer to life than easy catharsis. A lot of it’s a downer, but there are enough sprinkles of hope and bursting-at-the-seams humanity to guide any reader through the sadness.

Favorite stories include the brilliant and harrowing “People Like That are the Only People Here” about a mother of a toddler with cancer, “Real Estate” and its story of an isolated woman in her marriage finding new life reclaiming a new house; the hard-won redemption of “Terrific Mother,” grappling with the horrific aftermath of an accidental death; the lonely heartbreak of a librarian in “Community Life”; and the touching story of a woman mourning her cat’s death in “Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens.”
Lisa S
I think I'd really like to be friends with Lorrie Moore because she really has a sense of humour about things and seems like a chill girl, too.
I loved all these short stories; they made me laugh, made me think, made me realize that writing profound literature doesn't have to be all try-hard and dark and angsty. I feel Moore writes with real compassion and understanding for all her characters (which reminded me of Turgenev a bit). She really strikes a balance of the casual and the complex, descr I think I'd really like to be friends with Lorrie Moore because she really has a sense of humour about things and seems like a chill girl, too.
I loved all these short stories; they made me laugh, made me think, made me realize that writing profound literature doesn't have to be all try-hard and dark and angsty. I feel Moore writes with real compassion and understanding for all her characters (which reminded me of Turgenev a bit). She really strikes a balance of the casual and the complex, describes some of the most ‘realistic’ family situations I’ve ever read, starring ever-sassy characters which sadly are much more entertaining and witty than anyone I’ve actually met. These are true-to-life stories with larger-than-life characters, brilliantly written and mainly very very funny. I can't wait to read more by her.
Cassidy Menard
3.5--The stories I enjoyed the most were likely "Willing", "Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People", "Charades" and "Canonical Babbling in the Peed Onk". And when I say I enjoyed them, I mean I thought about them for days after! The other stories, while all interesting in premise and offering an intimate connection with the protagonist, over all were just okay. Top notch writing, but I think I will only remember those four I mentioned in years to come. I almost want to rate this a 4 beca 3.5--The stories I enjoyed the most were likely "Willing", "Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People", "Charades" and "Canonical Babbling in the Peed Onk". And when I say I enjoyed them, I mean I thought about them for days after! The other stories, while all interesting in premise and offering an intimate connection with the protagonist, over all were just okay. Top notch writing, but I think I will only remember those four I mentioned in years to come. I almost want to rate this a 4 because the stories I liked I really liked, but my so-so feelings about the others kind of prevent that. I will say that I was never bored, even if I wasn't totally into a story, and that I always felt that urge to pick up the book.
Caryn
This book won A NewYork Times Book Review Best Book of the Year. I started this book a while back and set it down. This is a collection of short stories so I thought it would be a good idea to mix things up a bit and started to re read it from the beginning. This is a great book. It is a tough read you wont fly through it. It is a concentrated read. You will laugh out loud at times then it will throw you into odd depths as well. Very clever, funny, beautiful, sad it covers a lot of territory. Re This book won A NewYork Times Book Review Best Book of the Year. I started this book a while back and set it down. This is a collection of short stories so I thought it would be a good idea to mix things up a bit and started to re read it from the beginning. This is a great book. It is a tough read you wont fly through it. It is a concentrated read. You will laugh out loud at times then it will throw you into odd depths as well. Very clever, funny, beautiful, sad it covers a lot of territory. Reading just one page of this book makes you feel like you are in an art museum standing in front of a masterpiece but instead you are reading these words on a page and they just seep into you like a work of art.
A2
Lorrie Moore can write. To really enjoy this book, you have to read the stories carefully, at the sentence level, to appreciate how her words are interacting with each other. It's difficult to find a boring line in here. Moore is witty and observant, and stitches her plots together so amazingly well. She turns every description that could be trite into something fresh and meaningful. There's so much we can learn from her. It took me three tries to get into this book, because I was reading it too Lorrie Moore can write. To really enjoy this book, you have to read the stories carefully, at the sentence level, to appreciate how her words are interacting with each other. It's difficult to find a boring line in here. Moore is witty and observant, and stitches her plots together so amazingly well. She turns every description that could be trite into something fresh and meaningful. There's so much we can learn from her. It took me three tries to get into this book, because I was reading it too fast the first two times. I didn't like all the stories, but they're all masterful.

Favorite stories:
Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People*
Agnes of Iowa
Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens
Real Estate
David
Moore is an excellent writer. Her phrasing can be stunning; some of her observations startling. But, all but one of the stories revolve around people who feel alienated from those around them, hate it, but treat the alienation like a genetic disease they have inherited - just something they have to deal with. It can get depressing.

The one story that feels a little more connected involved a mother with her child in a cancer ward. It feels so different from the other stories, with the narrator mor Moore is an excellent writer. Her phrasing can be stunning; some of her observations startling. But, all but one of the stories revolve around people who feel alienated from those around them, hate it, but treat the alienation like a genetic disease they have inherited - just something they have to deal with. It can get depressing.

The one story that feels a little more connected involved a mother with her child in a cancer ward. It feels so different from the other stories, with the narrator more involved with those around her, that I had to check. And yes (according to one article on the story) it is based on her real life experience.
Marina
Either I became increasingly more invested or the stories got better as you moved forward, I'm not sure. To be honest, I read them from time to time, and it's taken more than a month to read it--but I still followed Moore's advise and read each of the stories in one go. They were quite heavy, some of them hard to read, but so subtle, so intelligent, so well written and witty. I think whether you like it or not, her mastery of the written word is undeniable.
Jess
I tried to read this—got about halfway through. At first the stories were so-so, and I thought maybe they would improve. But I actually stopped right in the middle of one.

It’s unusual for me to not finish a story; I’m typically very caught up in wanting to know what happens even if I don’t like it. I really did not like this. Not the characters, who were neurotic and trying too hard to be witty. And not the style of the writing, which was ham-fisted. The whole thing felt like if Fozzie the Bear I tried to read this—got about halfway through. At first the stories were so-so, and I thought maybe they would improve. But I actually stopped right in the middle of one.

It’s unusual for me to not finish a story; I’m typically very caught up in wanting to know what happens even if I don’t like it. I really did not like this. Not the characters, who were neurotic and trying too hard to be witty. And not the style of the writing, which was ham-fisted. The whole thing felt like if Fozzie the Bear went to get an MFA in short story writing. Wocka wocka, life is sad and complicated.
Christopher
I would assert that Lorrie Moore is one of the most underrated (and under-read?) American writers of the last 20 years. I have read, and loved, her stories published in "The New Yorker", but this is the first time I have sat down and read one of her books. This collection of short stories is outstanding. I can't choose just one or two favorites; the first seven stories alone are worth reading, and re-reading, then stirring over and over again in reflection. I look forward to more and more Moore.
Sophia Shelton
Can anyone in America write like Lorrie Moore? The women of these stories (and Mack and Quilty, queer icons, I will think about that story forever) are so brilliantly rendered, wanting, funny. The stories could get a little homogenous at times — the same marriage problems, the same vaguely condescending, witty people — but for the most part, they’re so precise and real. The prose is just unbelievable. Moore must be one of the greatest living writers, full stop. Birds of America was a masterclass Can anyone in America write like Lorrie Moore? The women of these stories (and Mack and Quilty, queer icons, I will think about that story forever) are so brilliantly rendered, wanting, funny. The stories could get a little homogenous at times — the same marriage problems, the same vaguely condescending, witty people — but for the most part, they’re so precise and real. The prose is just unbelievable. Moore must be one of the greatest living writers, full stop. Birds of America was a masterclass of craft and heart.
Lori Ide
For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Goodreads readers have rated this a 4.11. It was an ok read--kind of depressing stories, actually. As with most collections of short stories, some I liked and some I did not. Having come off a long, sad tome with my last novel, I was seeking something uplifting. The words of praise from other authors and reviewers at the front of the book and on the back cover often used the word "funny". I didn't find much about this collection funny. So, whereas it w For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Goodreads readers have rated this a 4.11. It was an ok read--kind of depressing stories, actually. As with most collections of short stories, some I liked and some I did not. Having come off a long, sad tome with my last novel, I was seeking something uplifting. The words of praise from other authors and reviewers at the front of the book and on the back cover often used the word "funny". I didn't find much about this collection funny. So, whereas it was not what I thought it was going to be about, it was ultimately ok. Just ok.
Jacob
still one of my favorites. assured me that it was ok to be funny and sad and weird. fuck all whites, yes, but i still love this book madly. recently did a thorough reskimming and it resonates even more than it did then--now that i've loved, lost, and all that. my breath caught at so many moments i appreciated only aesthetically before. "willing," which i enjoyed but was never compelled to reread, took on new dimensions, as did "terrific mother." rage flapping away like a duck... too relatable.
Janet
I often find it difficult to give a single rating to a collection of short stories. Almost invariably, there are some stories I love, some I don't get, and some I actively dislike. This is true also with this collection. Sometimes the clever wit struck home with me, and other times I found it annoying and wearisome. At the end of the day, there were too many stories that I just couldn't wait to get to the end of, and they outweighed the ones that I found touching and entertaining.
Loumarie
The series of stories started off intriguing, but further in they took a plunge into really depressing narratives. Also I had a hard time following certain stories just because there was a lot to be "interpreted."
The first few were fantastic on their subtle commentary on female relationships with men, their parents, lovers, etc. and even ended on a positive note. The last few stories were quite bleak.
Jane
Short stories. Moore is a good writer and I found myself frequently thinking that a particular phrasing was brilliant. Even so, my reaction to all but the last 2 stories is that they were like potato chips – really good, home-made potato chips, but chips all the same. Enjoyable while reading, but no staying power. The last 2 stories are better but not sufficiently to make me want to recommend this without reservation.
Rev.
Moore is a great story teller. She's so good that I feel it almost difficult not to slip into her narrations of the mundane parts of my own life.
My only issue with this collection is that I felt like the protagonists of her stories are so similar that I sometimes have difficulty remembering what happened to which one. That would be more of a problem if they weren't such good characters.
Greg Witz
I really enjoyed Birds of America at first, but by the end I was a bit tired of it and ended up skimming the last few stories. Maybe I’ll come back to it, but I definitely found it a bit “samey” after a while. I did enjoy Moore’s prose though and thought she was very clever. Would give a 3.5 if it were possible
Sophie Fields
An OK read...some stories are much more gripping than others...what struck me most were the 3-4 sentence passages in each story that affected me so much that I had to re-read a couple times...extremely articulate and clever wording...lorrie moore creates the most realistic characters and situations that you get to be a part of in each story...overall entertaining read but would not read again
Corey Vilhauer
Lorrie Moore is a treasure, "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk" is a treasure, short story collections like this are all treasures. I put this on a shelf after returning from a vacation and laughed as I only had two stories left - the only positive of this is that I was able to prolong it a bit more.
Daffodil
Interesting stories, though most of them were downers. I generally go in for those kind of things, but the story about the cancer baby was a bit much for me. Still a good read, looking forward to reading her novels.
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